School burns Christian Bible

JERUSALEM, Dec. 27 (JTA) — Israeli officials have condemned a religious school for holding a public burning of the Christian Bible earlier this month. Israel´s deputy foreign minister, Michael Melchior, called the act a desecration of God´s name. He said in a statement this week that such acts could "harm our relationship with the Christian world." "The Jewish people cannot and will not accept the burning of books holy to others," Melchior said. "We cannot do unto others what has been done to the Jews for generations." The Orot school, located in Beit Shemesh, has apologized for burning the book, which apparently was given to a student by Christian missionaries. "The intentions were not to criticize Christianity, but only to tell these Jewish boys they don´t have to listen to the missionaries," said Jordana Klein, a spokeswoman for the school. Israel´s Education Ministry said it had summoned the school´s principal, Rabbi Yair Bachar, for a disciplinary hearing. The education ministry opened the inquiry after the story broke in the Jerusalem Post this week. According to the report, the incident took place in the school yard the week before Chanukah. A teacher found out that a sixth-grade student had brought to school a Hebrew copy of the New Testament that his family had received from missionaries. The teacher consulted with the school principal, who reportedly gave his approval for the burning. After receiving calls from angry parents — and after consulting with a rabbinic authority — Bachar apparently decided that he had made the wrong move. Rabbi David Spector, in Beit Shemesh, ruled that the material should be burned — but only by the owner and in private. Bachar reportedly has asked Spector to rule on religious matters for the school in the future. In a separate development, a Knesset committee defeated a bill proposed by religious parties making it illegal to proselytize via mail or fax machines. Israel´s Justice Minister and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel had objected to the law, arguing that it violates freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

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