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Rabbi blasted for ruling on gentile medical care

JERUSALEM (AP) -- A rabbi's reported ruling against giving medical attention to non-Jews on the Sabbath sparked calls on Sunday for the army to strip the rabbi of his combat officer rank.

A letter signed by Rabbi Amicha Rontsky appeared in a religious journal this month, declaring: "Of course the life of a gentile has value . . . but the value of the Sabbath is more important."Meimad, a dovish religious movement, published an exchange of letters between Rontsky, a lieutenant colonel and the deputy commander of a reserves infantry brigade, and Yoske Ahituv, a religious scholar.

Ahituv had heard of a religious ruling by Rontsky instructing religious army medics to avoid treating wounded Palestinian guerrillas on the Sabbath and sought clarification.

"If it is possible to refrain from treating (guerrillas), of course that is how one should act," Rontsky wrote.

He based his ruling on ancient rabbinical writings that appear to ban the treatment of non-Jews on the Sabbath. Most rabbis have ruled that such writings are no longer relevant and that saving human lives, Jewish or non-Jewish, is paramount.

Rontsky's one qualification was the "fear and horror" of the possibility that such an action would be published in the world media and lead to attacks on Jews overseas.

"It is permissible to bypass the laws of the Torah in order to prevent a situation of danger for Jews outside Israel," he said.

Rontsky was writing in his capacity as the dean of a seminary in the Jewish settlement of Itamar and did not say whether his ruling reflected the orders he would give as an army commander.