Yehoram Gaon, legendary Israeli singer-actor and cultural icon, questioned the state’s wisdom in arresting Rabbis Dov Lior and Yaakov Yosef over their “haskama” to a book called “Torat HaMelech” (“The King’s Torah”).
Gaon hosts a weekly radio show on government-run Voice of Israel Radio / Reshet Bet.
Gaon hinted that the state authorities had made a mistake by placing Torat HaMelech in the spotlight, when it would have gone unnoticed otherwise. “I, for one, would never have reached this book – what interest would I have in Halakhic quotes about morals in wartime? – but how do you explain the fact that for two weeks since I went out and looked for the book, I have been reading it and trying to understand what the fuss is about…?”
Gaon made clear that his criticism of the law enforcement authorities does not mean that he supports the rabbis’ refusal to show up for questioning. From the moment the rabbis were summoned, he opined, they had no option but to comply immediately with it. He cited the famous precept “dina demalchuta dina,” which enjoins Jews to respect the law of the land wherever they might be.
“Without respect for the State, Torah will not be heard in our region either – only the roars, growls and barks of the multitude. Respect for the State in the only glue holding us together, secular and hareidi-religious Jews.”
Were a rabbi called in for questioning over suspicion of theft or bribery, noted Gaon, no one would have said anything. The anger over the arrests erupted because the rabbis were not suspected of a criminal deed but about “philosophical musings,” he explained, and this is “a twilight zone.”
The police could have asked the rabbi same questions they asked him in the interrogation room over the phone, protested Gaon. Not only that, but they took his fingerprint “so that if he picks someone’s pocket, they will have his thumbprint in the offenders’ registry,” he added sarcastically.
“The rule of law is above everything, even above the rabbis, and because it is so strong, exclusive… it should be completely self confident and not just right or just. It should also be smart,” Gaon added.