Ministers to honor rabbi who praised Hebron massacre perpetrator

Peretz says he wasn’t involved in choosing Yitzchak Ginsburgh, whom Smotrich hails as a ‘genius and a tremendous sage’

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh. (Kobi Gideon/ FLASH90)
Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh. (Kobi Gideon/ FLASH90)

A pair of hardline ministers are slated to speak at an event this week honoring an extremist rabbi who has praised the Israeli settler responsible for mowing down 29 Muslim worshipers in a terror attack at Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs in 1994.

Education Minister Rafi Peretz and Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich will be attending an annual “Torah symposium” on Thursday put on by a religious NGO in the central town of Givat Shmuel called the Cathedra for Torah and Wisdom. At the end of the day-long event, Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh will be honored with a “Torah creativity” award.

Ginsburgh’s writings include a pamphlet that praises Hebron massacre perpetrator Baruch Goldstein. Critics have accused him of fueling attacks by extremist Jews against Palestinians and other non-Jews in Israel and the West Bank.

He also endorsed “The King’s Torah,” a 2009 book by firebrand rabbis Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur. The book quotes religious sages as permitting, under certain conditions, the killing of non-Jews, including babies, “if there is a good chance they will grow up to be like their evil parents.” The book also says the commandment “Thou shalt not murder” does not necessarily apply to non-Jews.

Rafi Peretz (R) and Bezalel Smotrich of the Union of Right-Wing Parties, at a campaign event in Jerusalem on March 11, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ginsburgh has referred to Arabs as a “cancer,” a remark that led to him being charged with incitement, but never convicted.

Last year, a recording was released of Ginsburgh encouraging students to carry out a “strong retaliatory act” two days after Palestinian gunmen killed Rabbi Raziel Shevach on the road near his home in the Havat Gilad outpost in the northern West Bank.

Smotrich and Peretz have both confirmed their intention to attend the event.

While Peretz’s office only insisted in a statement that the minister was not involved in the selection of the honoree, Smotrich defended Ginsburgh in a tweet last month, when news of the event first broke.

“Rabbi Ginsburgh is a genius and a tremendous sage with a Torah oeuvre of incomprehensible breadth,” he said. “You don’t have to agree with him on every single thing to believe he deserves an award. God willing I will be able to attend the ceremony in order to honor and bless him.

Last month, the event’s organizers released a flyer for the symposium, which included the Education Ministry’s logo on it. Quickly coming under fire for funding the honoring of such a controversial figure, the ministry insisted that its logo had been used without its permission.

The organizers claimed that the ministry had sponsored the event in previous years and had assumed that it would continue doing so this year as well. The government logo has since been removed from the flyers.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed