Thousands of arrived Monday at the steps of Israel's Supreme Court in Jerusalem to protest the arrests of Rabbis Dov Lior and Yaakov Yosef for writing a 'haskama,' or approbation for the book Torat Hamelekh.
Police investigators say the rabbis' haskamas encourage violence against non-Jews and constitute racism. But those familiar with the book say it merely discusses warfare from a halakhic point of view and says only that the lives of Jewish soldiers fighting in urban environments should be prioritized over those of non-Jewish civilians.
MK Michael Ben Ari (National Union), who opened the event, told Israel National News, "The Torah will not bow before any law. "
"We need to publicize two core messages," Ben-Ari said. "The first is that rabbis are researchers and academics. The second is that the world of Torah is not under investigation. Who does not understand that is igniting an inferno. There is no supertanker that can put out the fire that will start."
Addressing the crowd Rabbi Lior declared, "The role of rabbis is to guide and instruct the people. It was for Moses and it is today. That was the song of the Talmud until the last generation. Each added another layer to the depth of Torah."
"Rabbis in Israel explain the Torah and its position in relation to new things constantly," Rabbi Lior continued. "Torah is with us in all aspects of life even today when we have won statehood; the Torah has a position on the state and its institutions."
"The words of the Torah must not be distorted," Rabbi Lior said to loud cheers. "Israel's rabbis must express their views without fear from those who do not like what they say."
"Our law has passed every test throughout our generations," Rabbi Lior finished.
Rabbi Yaakov Yosef said, "'The law of the land is the law,' only applies when the state applies the law equally to all. We Orthodox have always tried to follow this rule, but in recent years there are those who seek to break the bridge between us and the nation."
"They want to split Israel into two nations - with different religions - which no one wants. Even secular Israelis love tradition and conduct the Seder on Passover, and come to synagogue in droves on Yom Kippur. The nation is good, but there are individuals trying to break the bonds between us!"
"We have to change this reality," Rabbi Yosef said. "There are a million traditional Jews who could oppose this evil trend. If all of us act with humility and modesty we can get the people's support. I want those who are close to tradition to be one with us," concluded Rabbi Yosef.
Rabbi Chaim Druckman, a senior religious Zionist rabbi considered to be a moderate who stands apart from the establishment, is among those calling on the public to come out and protest dispite his dissent over the contents of Torat Hamelekh.
"I object to the contents of the book, but that isn't the issue," Rabbi Druckman said. "The issue is the summons for questioning….I would like to make it clear, rabbis are not above the law, and if this were a criminal issue they must be interrogated no less than others."
Rabbi Druckman told the crowd there were double standards at the root of the allegations that the endorsement of the book "King's Torah" is incitement and that the investigation was proceeding under the 'color of law.'
"People in positions of authority speak about the rule of law, but their law is selective – left-wing professors and intellectuals are never investigated, though they speak real words of incitement -- outrageous statements that have nothing to do with their academic work."
Rabbi Druckman cited statements made by renowned academic Professor Ze'ev Sternhall, who said terrorists should aim their weapons at settlements and claimed that only those willing to march on the settlement of Ofra with tanks would be able to stop the 'fascist wave threatening to drown Israeli democracy.'
"Is this not incitement to murder? Has anyone called him in for questioning?" Rabbi Druckman asked.