Daily Israel Report

Church Official: Arrest Yitzhar Yeshiva Head Before Pope's Visit

If Israel is serious about eliminating 'price tag' attacks, mass arrests - including of rabbis - are needed, a top church official said
By Yosef Berger
First Publish: 5/22/2014, 8:33 AM

"Price tag" graffiti outside Jerusalem (file)
"Price tag" graffiti outside Jerusalem (file)
Flash 90

Israel needs to arrest “many more people” - including a prominent Rabbi - in advance of the visit of Pope Francis over the weekend to show that it is serious about fighting anti-Christian discrimination, the the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, said. “If Israel is the democracy it claims to be, then it should do something to stop” the “terrorist youths” accused of “price tag” attacks.

According to the Vatican Insider web site, a number of the claimed 399 price tag attacks in 2013 were directed at Christian Arabs and churches. Allowing the perpetrators of these attacks to remain at large during the Pope's visit was insulting to the church, and dangerous, said Twal.

Specifically, he said, the government should detain Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburgh of Yitzhar, whom he said was the “ringleader” of the youths accused of these attacks. Citing no evidence, Twal said that youths associated with Rabbi Ginsburgh were behind attacks such as a message spray-painted in Hebrew on the wall of St George's, a Romanian Orthodox church near a hareidi neighborhood. The graffiti, referring to rumors of Israel's intention to allow Catholics more authority over the site of King David's Tomb, read “price tag... King David for the Jews... Jesus is garbage.”

Rabbi Ginsburgh is the president of the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva. Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva was once located in the Joseph's Tomb complex, but has moved to the Shomron community of Yitzhar following Israel's decision to abandon the holy site. 

In the past, Rabbi Ginsburgh has been placed in administrative detention by Israel for his sometimes controversial views on responding to Arab terrorism and his outspoken opposition to any and all land compromises with the Arabs. Rabbi Ginsburgh is a follower of the teachings of the late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and lectures throughout Israel and the world. He is a renowned authority on Kabala and Chassidut and stands at the helm of the Gal Einai Institute .

"Price tag" is a euphemism for politically-motivated vandalism and criminal damage usually attributed to Jewish extremists, carried out either in revenge for Arab terrorist attacks, or in protest of Israeli government policies such as the destruction of Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria. Hundreds of Jewish youths have been arrested in connection with these attacks, but the vast majority have not been charged due to a lack of evidence.

In a statement last week, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem demanded action over the attacks. “The bishops are very concerned about the lack of security and lack of responsiveness from the political sector, and fear an escalation of violence," the group said in the statement, noting there had been "no gesture of solidarity or condemnation" from Israel's political establishment. "We feel neither safe nor protected." Church leaders in Israel plan to make security and political officials “aware of their responsibilities,” according to the statement.

Israel's top police officer on Sunday vowed to step up police presence nationwide ahead of Pope Francis's upcoming visit, according to AFP.  "You cannot exaggerate the importance of this visit on both a national and an international level," Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino told reporters in Jerusalem.

The two-day papal visit to Israel, which begins on May 25, was being treated by police with the same level of importance as that of US President Barack Obama, with an extra 8,000 officers to be deployed throughout Jerusalem, he said.