A member of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, is being criticized by the Anti-Defamation League and by other Israeli officials after he publicly ripped out the New Testament pages of a Bible and threw them into the trash.
Earlier this week, Knesset Member Michael Ben-Ari tore out the pages of a Bible that was sent to him by The Bible Society in Israel, and then posed while his photograph was taken with the destroyed book.
All 120 members of the Knesset were sent a copy of the Bible, Israel National News reports, along with a letter that states, among other things, "We are happy to grant you his book of the testaments that casts light on holy writing and helps you understand … to see the link between Biblical writings and the New Testament."
While Bible Society officials reportedly said they did not distribute the Bibles as a way to evangelize, Ben-Ari and other Knesset Members think they did.
"This horrible book caused the murder of millions of Jews in the Inquisition and the auto-da-fe's," said Ben-Ari, according to INN. He also said sending the book was "ugly, provocative missionizing," and while most of his government colleagues agree, they don't like the way he expressed his disapproval.
"Democracy means freedom of expression, but not freedom to ignore the feelings of believers of others faiths," said Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin, according to INN.
The Anti-Defamation League also condemned Ben-Ari's actions, and has asked him to apologize for this "disrespectful act."
"In statements to the media, the publisher has asserted that the intention was not to proselytize, but rather to inform [Knesset Members] of the wealth of religious texts produced in Israel," the ADL said in a letter to Ben-Ari. "However, if your belief was that this distribution constituted proselytizing, we believe a more proper outlet for your concern would be to call on the appropriate authorities to investigate if the manner in which this text was distributed constituted a violation of Israeli law."
Abraham H. Foxman, national director of ADL, also said in a press statement that Ben-Ari acted against both "Jewish values and the standards of Israel's democratic society."
"As Jews, we expect others to treat our holy books with respect and understanding," said Foxman. "We should likewise show respect for the holy books of other faiths. A member of parliament and a representative of the State of Israel should know better than to show such profound disrespect for another faith."
Victor Kalisher, director of The Bible Society in Israel, told INN his organization's goal was to "spread the scriptures and offer ways for the advancement of holy writings," not to offend anyone.
"There is no intention to hurt the feelings of Jews, and this is a Jewish book written by Jews and for Jews to learn a better Judaism, which is learned through the New Testament," said Kalisher.
The Christian Post was unable to reach Ben-Ari for comment before publication time.