Daily Israel Report

Police Question Rabbi Yosef after Morning Prayers

Police nabbed Rabbi Yaakov Yosef as he left morning prayers, took him into custody for questioning about "haskama" for the book “Torah HaMelech.”
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 7/3/2011, 7:42 AM

Flash 90

Police stopped Rabbi Yaakov Yosef after morning prayers Sunday and took him into custody for questioning concerning his "haskama" (customary letters of approbation from other Torah scholars at start of religious works, attesting to a book's halakhic coherence and often simply due to respect for the rabbinic writer) for the controversial book “Torah HaMelech.”

He was released a short time later.

Police were careful to say that he was not “arrested,” but the police action is bound to cause a storm of protests, similar or even louder than those following the questioning of Rabbi Dov Lior last week. Calls are already out for yeshiva students to gather and tires have been burned on Jerusalem streets.

The Rabbi's brother was with him at the site of Shimon Hatzaddik's grave in Jerusalem for Rosh Chodesh (first day of the new month of Tammuz) prayers, when, the brother told Israel's Radio Kol Chai, police "literally kidnapped him".

Both rabbis have refused to submit to a police summons that they appear for questioning and have explained that it is not the business of the police to question Jewish law. Rabbi Yosef is the son of revered Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, former Chief Sephardi rabbi and the spiritual leader of the Shas hareidi religious party.

They are suspected of inciting or aiding incitement by supporting the book that concerns Jewish law on the question of the priority of Jewish soldiers' lives versus killing of enemy civilians in time of war.

Rabbinic approval of a book on Jewish law or thought is standard operating procedure in the Torah publishing world and does not necessarily mean agreement with its contents.

Retired High Court Justice Yaakov Turkel said last week that the rabbinic approval is not significant and is not grounds for suspicion of: “incitement.”  He also said that the police acted “unwisely” by grabbing Rabbi Lior from his car as he was driving from Kiryat-Arba-Hevron to Jerusalem, instead of questioning him at his home.

Haggai Segal and Uri Elitzur of the Hebrew Makor Rishon newspaper this weekend listed incitement to kill settlers on the part of well-known Israelis such as Professor Sternhal (who later received the Israel prize) and poet Natan Zach, none of which evoked any interest by the police.

However, the police repeated the same procedure early Sunday morning, stopping Rabbi Yosef’s car after he finished praying at Shimon HaTzadik in Jerusalem. One of sons said he does not know where police took him for questioning.