Bentzion Gupstein, who heads the Lehava organization to prevent assimilation, was invited to participate in a panel discussion in Yeshivas Netivos Shalom (Wolfson) as part of a summer group program during which Gupstein was asked if churches in Israel should be set ablaze, to which he responded “of course”. The rosh yeshiva was quick to point out that this is not the position of the Rambam or Gedolei Yisrael. Also present was Rabbi Moshe Klein (Rav of Hadassah Hospitals), Rabbi Tzuriel Krisfel (Deputy Mayor of Elad), Benny Rabinowitz (Yated Neeman). The panel discussion was headed by Rabbi Abba Turetsky.
Gupstein explained during a halachic theoretical discussion that this is his opinion, which the rosh yeshiva explained contradicts the ruling of the Rambam, Shulchan Aruch, Chazon Ish and poskim today. The rosh yeshiva added this is not how halacha rules today and this must be clear to all.
Rav Klein pointed out that while this is written in the Rambam, this is not the halacha today and this is clear to all. Gupstein came under attack by the rabbonim, who explained we use fire to build, not to destroy, expressing shock over his position, which is clearly not in line with halacha.
Are you in favor of burning [churches] or not? Yes or no?
Of course. Certainly this is the Rambam. What is the question here?
This is unbelievable! Rabosai, who has a lighter?
Bentzi, I am telling you know as an attorney you will be locked up [for what you said].
Bentzi, at this moment, get up, quickly step back, jump! What are you saying?!
One moment. A moment ago you called it ‘avoda zara’.
Stopped him explaining this is your problem. Your limud is pasul!
Bentzi, would you kill a mechalel Shabbos today if he was warned by witnesses in line with the Rambam?
An argument followed Turetsky said:
Our Rosh Yeshiva Moreinu V’Rabeinu taught us we use fire to build today, not to burn and destroy.
Bentzi, I want to tell you that the truth is I am in shock from your works uttered here. In essence you are saying we should get up and burn churches…you are saying madness.
What’s the question, you have a question that we shouldn’t?
Bentzi, you are being videoed and it is going to the police and you are going to be arrested.
This is the last thing that concerns me. If this is the truth, I am willing to sit in jail 50 years for this.
After the recording was publicized Gupstein said, “It was a closed panel discussion of Yeshivas Wolfson and the halachic matter was discussed regarding the Rambam’s view on Christianity. During the discussion I said that the Rambam rules that avoda zara must be burned and I said a number of times that I do not call on anyone to take such steps but that this is the Rambam’s ruling and it is the job of the government, not individuals”.
Opposition leader MK Yitzchak Herzog calls on authorities to lock Gupstein up and to declare the organization illegal.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)