One of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations is calling on the Israeli parliament member who ripped pages from the Bible to apologize.
"There is no excuse for abusing the sacred scripture of any other religion," said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, director of interfaith affairs at the center, in a statement Wednesday.
"Israel from its inception guarantees religious freedoms and mutual respect for holy sites and objects of all its citizens. Israelis of all persuasions and backgrounds welcome the friendship and support of members of all faiths," Cooper and Adlerstein said. "Thank God Israel is not Saudi Arabia, where keeping a Christian Bible, let alone a Torah, Talmud or Siddur is a criminal offense. We urge MK Ben-Ari to apologize for his act and to find appropriate ways to strengthen Jewish identity and loyalty"
The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center was reprimanding Michael Ben-Ari, a member of the Knesset, Israel's parliament. Ben-Ari was photographed ripping up pages from the New Testament and throwing it in the trash.
The Bible Society in Israel, a messianic Judaism group, had sent copies of the Bible to all 120 members of the Knesset, according to Israel National News. Ben-Ari had perceived the society's sending him the Bible as an attempt to proselytize and also blamed the Bible for violence against Jews: "Millions of Jews were murdered in the name of the New Testament, this revolting book brought massacres of Jews in the [Spanish] Inquisition and throughout history."
However, the society said it only wanted to inform MKs that the Bible is among the religious texts produced in Israel, the Anti-Defamation League explained.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday also denounced Ben-Ari's action saying, "I condemn any disrespect of holy texts of any religion, including ripping the New Testament by an MK yesterday," according to The Jerusalem Post. "Every holy book is important to its believers."
He added, "Democracy is the freedom of speech, but it is not anarchy, and freedom of faith and worship is one of the founding values of this country."