MK Ben-Ari
MK Ben-AriIsrael news photo: Flash 90

MK Michael Ben-Ari (Ichud Leumi) was among many MKs who were angered Tuesday when a publisher sent each Member of Knesset a copy of the Christian Bible. While most MKs were content with statements condemning the "gift," Ben-Ari decided to show the publisher what he thought of it by ripping out the pages of the “New Testament,” throwing them in the trash, and having his actions documented in pictures, which he publicized.

“This horrible book caused the murder of millions of Jews in the Inquisition and the auto-da-fe's,” Ben-Ari accused. Sending the book was “ugly, provocative missionizing,” he added.

The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement condemning Ben-Ari’s act. “As Jews, we expect others to treat our holy books with respect and understanding,” said ADL head Abraham Foxman. “We should likewise show respect for the holy books of other faiths.”

“A member of parliament and a representative of the State of Israel should know better than to show such profound disrespect for another faith,” Foxman continued.  “His actions run counter to Jewish values and the standards of Israel’s democratic society.”

The ADL sent a letter to Ben-Ari suggesting that a better response to missionizing would have been “to call on the appropriate authorities to investigate.” The group noted that the publisher who sent the bibles said his intent was to “inform MKs of the wealth of religious texts produced in Israel” rather than to proselytize.

Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin condemned Ben-Ari as well. “Imagine what would happen if a member of Parliament in a different country burned the Hebrew Bible because he thought it had been sent to him in an attempt to provoke,” he said.

“Democracy means freedom of expression,” Rivlin said, “but not freedom to ignore the feelings of believers of other faiths.”