Or Yehuda deputy mayor: I'm sorry about burning New Testaments
The burning of hundreds of New Testaments by yeshiva students in Or Yehuda last week was regrettable and unplanned, the city's deputy mayor, the man who spurred the students to act, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
Deputy Mayor Uzi Aharon of Shas used the opportunity of speaking to the Post, which publishes a monthly Christian Edition, to apologize to Christians worldwide, saying he hoped the incident would not inflame tensions between Jews and Christians.
Following the publication of the story on Tuesday, however, many messianic Jewish and other Christian groups expressed grave concern over the increasingly violent nature of anti-missionary activity in Israel.
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."