FILE - Lehava chairman Benzi Gopstein are brought to the Jerusalem's Magistrates Court in Jerusalem on December 16, 2014. Flash90
FILE – Lehava chairman Benzi Gopstein are brought to the Jerusalem’s Magistrates Court in Jerusalem on December 16, 2014. Flash90


Rome – The Vatican called on the Attorney-General on Sunday to indict Lehava head Benzi Gopstein on suspicion of incitement to violence and terrorism.

The letter, filed by the Vatican’s representative in Israel, Custodia da Terra Santa, to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein, followed comments made by Gopstein last week in favor of burning down churches in Israel. Lehava is a radical anti-assimilation and anti-missionary organization which has stirred great controversy since its founding in 2009.

During a panel debate on idol worship last Tuesday, Gopstein cited Maimonides’s ruling that Christianity is idolatry which needs to be destroyed, in accordance with the  commandment in Deuteronomy to destroy idol worship in the Land of Israel. Thus, in theory, Gopstein said he was in favor of burning churches in Israel.

The Vatican’s letter stresses that urgent action must be taken against Gopstein “in the face of real danger to churches and Christian communities in Israel,” as a result of his remarks. The move follows a complaint filed to the police on Friday by Father Pietro Felet, Secretary General of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries in the Holy Land. The complaint was filed on behalf of some 20 patriarchs and bishops to express concern over growing security challenges to christian communities and their holy sites in Israel and the West Bank.

Father Felet mentioned in his complaint several attacks on Christian holy sites by radical groups, and hinted that in the vast majority of these incidents, the perpetrators were not brought to justice.

Gopstein took to Facebook to react to the letter, saying that he “views gravely” the Vatican’s “intervention in halachic discussions.”

“It’s time to remind the Vatican that gone is the censorship period in which they censored Jewish books,” he added.

He also lashed out at Benny Rabinowitz, a journalist and editor with the Yated Ne’eman haredi (ultra-Orthodox) daily newspaper, who drew and recorded Gopstein’s inflammatory statements when he asked him directly whether he is in favor of burning Christian churches in Israel. Gopstein has clarified that his comments were only made in the context of theoretical Jewish law and that he was not calling for operative steps by individuals.

As reported by Vos Iz Neias