Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Bible Burning in Israel

In mid-May, Uzi Aharon, the deputy mayor of an Israeli town called Or Yehuda, found out that "messianic Jews" (Jews who believe in Jesus) had dropped off some New Testaments in his community. His response was to organize a group of yeshiva students who collected several hundred of the books and burned them in a public bonfire.

In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Aharon denied wanting the bibles to be burned. However, the Post noted that his story changed quite dramatically over the course of May 20, the day that news of the book burning became public:

Aharon had a very busy Tuesday. In the morning, Ma'ariv ran a story on how he organized to retrieve and burn hundreds of New Testaments given to Ethiopian Jews in his city by local messianic Jews. By 9 a.m. he was on an Army Radio news-talk show defending his actions, which he called "purging the evil among us."

At 10:30 he was on Channel 2's morning news show saying that Ethiopian immigrants in Or Yehuda were being encouraged to go against Judaism by messianic Jews. "We need to stop being ashamed of our Jewishness and to fight those who are breaking the law by missionizing against us," he said.

But by the early afternoon he had already been interviewed by Russian, Italian and French TV, explaining to their highly offended audiences back home how he had not meant for the Bibles to be burned, and trying to undo the damage caused by the news [and photographs] of Jews burning New Testaments.

But then he also told The Associated Press that he didn't condemn the Bible burning, calling it a "commandment."

Both the Israeli government and the Anti-Defamation League have condemned the book burning.

This was a disgraceful act, regardless of how much Aharon and other residents of Or Yehuda were offended by the distribution of New Testaments. Mass book burnings display a fanatical intolerance worthy of Hamas or Hezbollah, not the citizens of a democracy that guarantees religious freedom.


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