Rabbi ordered released in mosque arson case


JERUSALEM (JTA) – A Jerusalem court ordered the release of the head of a West Bank yeshiva who was arrested for his alleged involvement in an arson attack on a nearby mosque.

Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, one of the leaders of the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva in the northern West Bank settlement of Yitzhar, was arrested Tuesday by the Shin Bet security service.

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court judge said Wednesday that police had no grounds to keep the rabbi in custody, but delayed implementation of the decision until late Wednesday night to enable the police time to appeal, Ynet reported.

Shapira had been questioned Tuesday by police, at which time he reportedly refused to answer questions about the arson. He then was placed under arrest and transferred to the Shin Bet.

At least five of the yeshiva’s students were arrested last week in connection with the arson.

In the December attack on the mosque in the Palestinian town of Yasuf, arsonists burned furniture, prayer rugs and holy texts, and defaced the mosque’s walls. The attack led to retaliatory violence, including the stabbing of an Israeli woman at a bus stop. The arson attack was internationally condemned.

The rabbi has been condemned for writing a book  called "The King’s Torah" that says it is permissible to kill non-Jewish children if they pose a threat or as a deterrent for the future. It states that only a Jew who kills a Jew violates the commandment against murder.

On Tuesday, the Anti-Defamation League called on Orthodox Jewish leaders to “speak out against his [Shapira’s] book as a perversion of Judaism.”

ADL National Director Abraham Foxman also said in a statement that "It is outrageous that several prominent rabbis have endorsed this book. The failure of religious leaders to condemn the distorted views of biblical law advocated in "Torat Hamelech" ("The King’s Torah") may have contributed to an atmosphere in which heinous attacks, such as the attack against the Palestinian mosque in Yasuf, are encouraged and condoned as being supported by biblical commandments."

Recommended from JTA