The leader of a Jewish group has voiced support for arson attacks on Christian Churches in Israel.
Benzi Gopstein, the head of Lehava – which has drawn notoriety for its violent attacks on Jewish-Arab assimilition – made the statements at a panel discussion for Jewish Yeshiva students.
Benzi, later tried to escape from accusations of inciting his followers to fire-bomb churches, stating that it was the government’s responsibility to carry out what he presented as a religious teaching of the 12th Century Jewish philosopher.
“Did the Rambam [Maimonides] rule to destroy [idol worship] or not? Idol worship must be destroyed. It’s simply yes – what iss the question?” Mr Benzi told the panel who were there.
Israeli Newspaper Haaretz reports:
The leader of the extremist anti-assimilation group Lehava allegedly called for churches to be torched, at a panel held this week for yeshiva students. Benzi Gopstein said he is prepared to spend 50 years in jail for doing so, according to a report by the Haredi website Kikar Shabbat.
During the yeshiva intercession, known as bein hazmanim, many yeshivas hold summer camps for their students.
These combine Torah study with other activities, like trips and panels to discuss current events. Kikar Shabbat obtained and posted a recording of such a panel at the Wolfson Yeshiva camp, at which Gopstein appeared along with Rabbi Moshe Klein, the rabbi of the Hadassah Medical Centers; Elad Deputy Mayor Tzuriel Krispal; and Yated Ne’eman journalist Benny Rabinovich.
The panel was debating whether Jews are commanded to eliminate idol worship, as the Rambam (Maimonides) states. After Gopstein responded affirmatively, Klein hastened to interject, “It is a mitzvah according to the Rambam, but in our times the answer is no.”
The issue generated an argument on the panel, with Gopstein defending his position that churches should be burned.
In response to a question by Rabinovich as to whether he “is in favor of burning churches in the Land of Israel,” Gopstein answered, “Did the Rambam rule to destroy [idol worship] or not? Idol worship must be destroyed. It’s simply yes – what’s the question?”
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