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Israel, as usual in security cases and almost any sensitive matter, has slapped a gag order on the arrest of three Jewish terror suspects in the case of the arson attack on the historic Church of Loaves and Fishes in the Galilee.  The attack left a substantial portion of the edifice damaged along with degrading anti-Christian graffiti scrawled on the walls of the holy site.

yinon reuveni

Yinon Reuveni, Hilltop Youth extremist, alleged Jewish terrorist

A knowledgeable Israeli source identified the names of the culprits are Yinon Reuveni (age 19), Mordechai Gedalia Margalit (age 18), Yehuda Yedidia Asraf (age unknown, but possibly a minor).  Reuveni has been slapped by the Shin Bet with an administrative restraining order barring him from entering the Territories (possibly why he chose to “branch out” to a target inside Israel proper).  Margalit too received similar treatment from the authorities.

One suspect is from the Israeli town of Ofakim.  At least one other is from a settlement though I haven’t yet identified which one.  Two of them were arrested in Yad Benjamin.  I hope any Israeli readers will spread this gagged news as widely as possibly on social media to begin the process of filleting censorship.

PAUL LANDES

Calcalist article announcing Paul Landes’ “secret” counter-terror job with undisclosed Israeli security agency

Israel has an entire Shin Bet unit devoted to fighting Jewish terror, yet it took them weeks to arrest the culprits.  Now they will be interrogated.  They might be tried and if justice is lucky (it usually isn’t in such cases) they might spend a week or month in jail.  In the meantime, the Knesset is debating a law that would provide the death penalty in terror attacks.  By “terror” they’re speaking of Arab terror, of course.  Jewish terror is usually unprosecuted.  One of the few Jewish terrorists who has received a life sentence is Yigal Amir.  And many in high places lobby regularly for his release (a poll found that 30% of Israelis favored his pardon).  Even those who murder Palestinians get released from prison, and in many instances pardoned by the President.

Let us not hear from Israeli apologists that these youth are aberrations, that all of Israel denounces their acts.  Where do you think they learned to hate?  Not just from their parents or a renegade rabbi.  They learned from their prime minister, his cabinet and the extremist legislators who rule the land.  They are doing what many mainstream Israelis would like to do but can’t.

Let’s also not make the mistake of saying anti-Christian hate is a marginal affair in Israel.  Jack Teitel, another Jewish terrorist serving a lengthy jail term for killing Israeli police and attempting to kill Hebrew University Prof. Zeev Sternhell with a bomb, severely injured a Christian missionary by exploding a bomb at his home.

Hatred of Christianity is only part of the toxic stew on which these settlers feast.  Even deeper is their hate of Muslims in general and Palestinians in particular.  There isn’t even any comfort in saying that at least they don’t hate Jews, since they do.  As I noted, Teitel injured Zeev Sternhell in a bomb blast.  Before that, he posted flyers offering a reward for the killing of Israeli Jewish peace activists.  In other words, these settlers hate anyone not like them.  And it isn’t just theoretical or abstract hate.  This is hate backed with deeds.  They’re more than willing to kill for their “ideals.”

In short, this is a deviant form of Judaism that I call idolatry.  The worship of the false god of Judaic purity.  Precisely the sort of worship prophets like Isaiah railed against.  The sort of aberrant behavior Yeshayah Leibowitz so presciently called “Judeo-Nazism.”  It is the sort of hate that felled a prime minister (Yitzhak Rabin) and will destroy the country if it isn’t extirpated root and branch (an unlikely prospect given the enormous power wielded by the settler movement within Israeli politics).

While we’re on a roll here exposing Israeli gag orders, let’s blow the cover off another Israeli “secret agent.”  Israeli attorney, Paul Landes, has been until recently the director of a money-laundering unit which traced terror financing.  This was a public position.  Calcalist reported, perhaps inadvertently (here’s the censored version of the story), that Landes is stepping down from this role.  He is moving to a new “secret” job whose particulars may not be reported, according to the media outlet.  Undoubtedly, he will be working for the Shin Bet or Mossad doing precisely the same thing: tracing terror financing by Arab militant groups like Hezbollah, Hamas and others.  Why his job should be secret when similar positions in the U.S. Justice Department (possibly even the CIA) are not is an excellent question.

Undoubtedly, as soon as someone in the intelligence services reads this the Calcalist page will be taken down.  So I’ve saved a screenshot.

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Israeli Justice: Blind, But Crooked as Well

Ten years ago in the early hours of a July morning on a Tel Aviv street, two people had a fateful encounter.  For one, it meant everything.  For the other, it meant nothing.  Gal Beck was a happy 16 year-old boy riding home on a motor scooter with his best friend by his side on another scooter.  It was early Saturday morning around 3 AM.  They stopped at an intersection for a red light and chatted for a bit.  Then the light turned green.  Gal started first, then his friend followed.

gal beck

Gal with his mother, Ruthie Beck in happier times

At the same moment a 20 year-old woman barreled into the intersection from the opposite direction.  By the accounts of most witnesses she was speeding, traveling nearly 60 mph.  She ran the red light and crashed into Gal.  The accident killed him.  His friend wasn’t injured at all, but lives to this day with the shattering memory of what happened that night.

Neither of the boys were drinking.  Neither had taken drugs or were using prescription medication.  That much we know.  But until now, we knew almost nothing about the driver who killed Gal.  No Israeli knows her name.  The case was closed six weeks after the accident “for lack of evidence.”  This happened despite the fact that numerous witnesses testified to the police that the driver was speeding and that she ran the red light.  Either no blood alcohol test was ever done or none appears in the police record.

There was a single witness, a female taxi driver, who testified in complete contradiction to all the other witnesses that the boys ran the red light and that the light was green when the driver crossed into the intersection.  Channel 1 TV aired a documentary (video above) on the case recently in which it interviewed the taxi driver for 90 minutes, and no less than 20-30 times she affirmed before a hidden camera that the driver ran the red light and the boys had a green light.  The next night, when the camera crew approached her for an actual interview, appearing coached and well-rehearsed, she reverted to the story in the police record which blamed Gal Beck and his friend for the accident.

The driver testified to the police that she was traveling 30 mph and that she was absolutely certain it was green when she entered the intersection.

Such tragic accidents happen everywhere, in Israel and around the world.  In many such places there are miscarriages of justice like the one that occurred here.  But there are several aspects of this case that cause it to rise to greater significance.  First, the driver, whose identity is concealed under gag order, was the daughter of a wealthy, powerful and well-connected Israeli family.  Second, the Tel Aviv chief prosecutor, Ruth David, who heard the case was later accused of massive corruption in her handling of several key organized crime cases after she left the prosecutor’s office.  After leaving office she moved to a defense firm run by a powerful mob-connected attorney, Ronel Fisher, who also was accused of bribery and corruption and colluding with her on these cases.

shani palti schulz

Shani Palti-Schulz, age 30 from her deleted Facebook account

The Fisher-David case made front-page headlines in Israel.  Crooked cops, crooked prosecutors, and crooked defense attorneys colluding on behalf of Mafiosi.  It’s the stuff of Hollywood films.  But the screaming headlines ignore the quiet trauma of a mother and father who lost a beloved son.  The best friend who watched him die.  And witnesses beset by guilt who wondered why they were never questioned by police.  These are the plain simple people who are victims of a corrupt system.  They don’t have the power or influence to make the system work for them.  They take what comes and hope for the best even when they know something is wrong, but that they can’t fix it.  Imagine the helplessness of Oded and Ruthie Beck in the face of a justice system serving the interests of the 1%, Israel’s powerful oligarchic families.

Though Israelis may not be told the identity of the young woman who took Gal Beck’s life, you can.  She is Shani Palti-Schulz, now age 30.  When Channel 1 called her to talk about the accident she professed not to remember.  Then she said she had no interest in discussing it.  In the past 24 hours, she’s deleted her Facebook account, which used to display the accompanying portrait of her scarfing down a yummy burger.  No such pleasures for Gal.

Life has been good to Shani.    She’s the daughter of Nadav Palti (his bio), the CEO of Dori Media, one of Israel’s most successful television production companies.  Recently, he was the chairman for the International Emmy awards.

She married into the family which owns one of Israel’s most lavish catering companies.  It entertains the wealthiest of Israel’s families: does their weddings, their bnai mitzvah, their corporate events.

The wedding was covered in the society pages, and even in the sober business publication, Calcalist.  There was no mention of any blemish in the bride’s past.  All was sweetness and light.

That’s the way life goes for Israel’s 1%.  They are protected from their evil deeds.  They have connected lawyers who do God knows what to get beloved daughters like Shani off.  Bribe witnesses? Very possibly.  Bribe police commanders? Possibly. Even bribe chief prosecutors?  Why not?

Unfortunately, the documentary did not delve into the corruption that resulted in Gal’s case being closed so abruptly.  It didn’t question Ruth David.  It didn’t investigate whether corruption played a role.  It should have.  But in Israel those powerful families have lawyers who threaten defamation suits which could drag on for years and bankrupt media companies.  Better not to go there if it can be helped.

But thankfully, we can do what Israeli media may not.  We can offer a scintilla of light and justice to the family.  We can offer Israelis what should be theirs by right: knowledge and information.

Family and friends of Gal have launched a Facebook page calling for the reopening of his case.

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Israeli Spy Drone Crashed in Lebanon

Reuters reports that an Israeli drone has crashed in Tripoli.  It was a Hermes 450.  Though they say it crashed in the sea, this video footage clearly shows it on land. Hezbollah in the past has had success in commandeering Israeli drones via hacking. Israel has also admitted destroying drones with which it lost contact (or which were hacked) in order to prevent their falling into Hezbollah hands. It appears that the Lebanese have earned a rich harvest with the capture of this vehicle.  Though it’s unclear that it will benefit Hezbollah or Iran, since Tripoli is not one of their strongholds.

An interesting question is why the Israelis were spying there.  It’s a northern Sunni city outside the Shia geographical sphere of influence.  It is possible the drone’s mission lay elsewhere (Syria or the Bekaa), that it was hacked or stopped responding there and flew itself to Tripoli, where it crashed.

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Breaking: Second Israeli Captive in Gaza Identified

hashem al sayyed

Hashem al’Sayyed, Israeli Bedouin imprisoned in Gaza

UPDATE: I also broke another major story today.  Until now, Israeli media reported that two IDF soldiers were killed during a Hannibal Directive, in which the army kills one of its own troops to prevent capture by Palestinian militants.  Now, I report that a third IDF solider, Amit Yeori, was also murdered by his own during last summer’s war.  Thanks to Mint Press News for publishing both stories and recognizing their importance.

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Yesterday, an Israeli judge approved the removal of the gag order preventing the media from reporting anything about the imprisonment of Avera Mengistu.  This was a story I first reported here back in October and followed up on last month in a Mint Press News story.  In that piece, I first identified Mengistu by name and excoriated the government for turning its back on him in large part because he was black.  As his brother told the Israeli press yesterday: “This wasn’t just racism, it was blackism.”

Avera Mengistu

Avera Mengistu (R.) at an Ethiopian wedding

I’m delighted that despite the fact that it took the Israeli media eleven months to say a word about his case, that now they are making up for it.  All the major outlets ran stories and informed the Israeli public about a story that had been withheld from them for almost a year.  But some media did better than others.  NRG (formerly Maariv), a hard-right outlet, reported fully not just about Mengistu, but credited my own original reporting and contribution.  Ynet and 972 Magazine also referred briefly to my role.  Only the erstwhile “liberal” Haaretz excised me completely from the story.  To believe their reporting, the only conversation about Mengistu happened among Israeli-Ethiopians on Facebook.  The reporter couldn’t even be bothered to discover that for the past month I’ve been sending Facebook messages to every Israeli Ethiopian NGO and individual on the social media platform that I could find.

Despite e mails to the reporter and Aluf Benn, the managing editor, asking for a correction to their story, no response has been forthcoming. I’ll let you be the judge of what that says about Haaraetz’s journalistic principles.  I should add that I regularly cover and credit Haaretz reporting here, while also criticizing it when warranted.  It’s that part that rankles people like publisher Amos Schocken and Benn.

I’ve written about this in my new Mint Press article following up on the Mengistu saga.  Please read it and distribute it on social media.

Yesterday, Haggai Matar reported at Mekomit that there is a second Israeli citizen held captive in Gaza.  Matar did not identify him.  I will now.  An Israeli source has confirmed he is an Israeli Bedouin, Hashem Sha’aban al-Sayyed (age 27), from one of the Bedouin hamlets in Hura area.  I do not know how he came to cross the border.  This element of the story is under the same draconian gag order that prevented the identification of Mengistu till yesterday.  Let’s hope that Haaretz can appeal the gag order on this case as well and get it removed.  Let’s hope as well that Haaretz’s churlishness doesn’t prevent it from offering journalistic credit.

Haaretz interviewed al-Sayyed’s father, who told the reporter that despite claims by Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon to the contrary, no Israeli official had had any contact with him and that he didn’t even know his son was being held in Gaza.  Yaalon also warned Hamas that he held it responsible for the two captives’ safety.  When you and your government has abandoned them for months–to announce that you hold the other guy responsible is a breathtaking bit of bluffery.  We always knew Yaalon was a liar, but this performance is truly breathtaking.  Most politicians would at least be embarrassed to be shown up by a mourning father.  But for Yaalon, there is no shame.

Hashem had disappeared on April 20th.  His father said Hashem is mentally-troubled and had twice previously cross the border and was returned.  My hope is that just as the story on Mengistu led to the lifting of his gag order a month later, so the same may happen in the case of this poor Bedouin man.

There’s another element of embarrassment for the Israeli government in this case.  The IDF monitors the Gaza-Israel border closely with surveillance cameras and regular patrols.  Though the IDF refused to have any contact with Mengistu’s family for weeks after the incident, eventually they brought the family video evidence of Mengistu on the beach before he crossed into Gaza.  The evidence, according to yesterday’s reports, showed him sitting on the beach reading a Bible, then approaching the fence and climbing over it.  It shows his approaching several Gazans on the other side of the fence as well.

The army claims it immediately dispatched troops to investigate and prevent Mengistu from crossing.  This doesn’t pass the smell test.  If a terrorist was crossing into Israel from the same location, they would activate every force possible in order to meet the threat.  In this case, they saw someone crossing in the “wrong” direction and did nothing to prevent it.  Because they just didn’t care.

Yossi Melman offered a savage critique (the English version at the Jerusalem Post is considerably more toned down) of the Israeli security apparatus in his story for Maariv.  He said it “spat in the face” of the Ethiopian community in Israel.  “If the color of his skin had been different, the government’s attitude would’ve been as well.” Of course, he’s right.

He further reveals secret briefings offered to journalists about the case while it was still under gag in which they were told the government had met with the family and was doing all in its power to free him.  Nothing of the sort happened.  The prime minister refused to meet the family until an Israeli Ethiopian MK pressured him to do so.  The meeting took place exactly one day before the judge ended the gag order.

The government pressured the family to remain silent.  That’s why when I contacted Avera’s brother he refused to speak with me, as did a well-known Ethiopian journalist I contacted.  Only his father, who is divorced and largely out of contact with the family, was willing to talk.

For all reading this, especially Israelis, let’s break the gag on reporting al-Sayyed’s name and predicament as we did Mengistu’s.  They deserve no less from all of us.

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For a Good Time, Call 1-800 SHINBET!

1800 mossad

Arabic language web page served to Nicola Perugini while he surfed the web

Nicola Perugini, a good friend (online) and co-author with Neve Gordon of numerous articles and a new book on the Israel-Palestine conflict, was sitting in a Ramallah cafe recently.  He was working on his laptop when the page he was viewing was replaced by the image displayed here.  It is a recruitment page for the Israeli Shin Bet, asking for Palestinians who want to earn big bucks and keep the world safe (for Israel), to contact the phone number listed.

Nicola published this story at the London Review of Books, where it was titled with the misnomer, 1-800 MOSSAD.  Of course, the Mossad doesn’t recruit Palestinian spies.  The Shin Bet does.  So it should more aptly be titled, 1-800 SHINBET.  Interestingly, Israel domestic security service, like the Israeli government, does not recognize Palestinian sovereignty.  It considers Palestine part of Israel.

Here is the English translation of the page:

Do you have any information? We can help you!

[Call] 1-800-800-319

Who We Are

Our responsibility towards the two peoples [Israelis and Palestinians] is to preserve security and safety. We want to ensure a life of dignity and freedom for all.

Our goal is to fight all forms of terrorism and violence, and to promote peace. We have considerable capabilities, most importantly our human resources.

What We Request

You have the chance to earn a lot of money if you will provide us with information about:

1. Terrorist activities
2. Tunnels under borders
3. Planned attacks
4. Hostages and missing people

The original domain, Helpmegaza.com, has been taken down.  A domain name which suggests there’s a personal profit (“Help me”) to be made from exploiting Gaza is supremely ironic.  Here’s the Domain Tools website info which indicates the page is registered in Petah Tikvah.  It has a robot.txt page ensuring it isn’t web crawled nor archived in the Wayback Machine.  Apparently, it has been recruiting Palestinian spies in Gaza and the West Bank for two years.  Note also, that the Mossad maintains a similar site seeking informers to betray Hezbollah commanders.

Some of the Gaza domain registration information is obviously fake.  But one intriguing bit stands out.  The technical registration information is for a high-tech center in Haifa, which houses some of the world’s major corporations doing business in Israel.  The company listed is Omega Advanced Technology Center MATAM (telephone 972-4-8560514).  I haven’t found any other reference to the company except this one.  It’s perfectly credible that Unit 8200 would be operating at MATAM as well.  Or that it would contract this work to one of the companies in this center.  Either whoever did this job was very sloppy or MATAM/Omega is part of the hoax as well.

It’s unlikely the Shin Bet itself performed the technical measures necessary to serve this page on Nicola’s laptop.  More likely this little feat was engineered by those tech whizzes in Unit 8200, the IDF’s SIGINT outfit.  I’m guessing that it has either engineered a backdoor into the Palestinian ISP; or that it’s figured out a way to inject web pages as Palestinians surf the web.  Of course, it’s also possible they were personally targeting Nicola himself, though I doubt in this case their efforts are that individualized.

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frank walter steinmeier in gaza

German foreign minister’s public agenda during his Gaza visit concealed a secret agenda

Intelligence Online (IO)  reported (paywall) last month that the visit of German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to both Israel and Gaza involved far more than the humanitarian agenda suggested in the media.  IO writes that the German intelligence agency, BND, is conducting secret negotiations between the Israeli government and Hamas aimed at achieving a durable, stable long-term ceasefire.  The Germans are encouraging Hamas’participation through a collaboration with Qatar’s state security service.  The Qataris submitted a proposal to both Israel and Gaza (presumably with the cooperation of the BND).  A key component that would make the plan attractive to Hamas is that it would include building a floating seaport off Gaza that would be administered under NATO auspices.

This is the first time I’ve heard NATO mentioned as a potential force to monitor and enforce international agreements in Israel-Palestine.  If the report is accurate, this could be a serious and important development, introducing a major international security force into the region.  Additional reports say Turkey, which often acts in concert with Qatar in such matters, has also agreed to the plan.

It’s no accident that several media reports have noted that the Gulf state has pledged $1-billion in funding for Gaza reconstruction.  It appears that Qatar is the only entity allowed by the Israelis to pursue rebuilding efforts without hindrance:

A year after the war that devastated the Gaza Strip, Israel is apparently helping Qatar — which does not have official diplomatic relations with Israel  — partner with the Islamist movement and longstanding enemy Hamas to rebuild the the territory.

“Life is full of contradictions and strange things,” Yossi Kuperwasser, former head of research for Israel’s military intelligence, told NPR when commenting on Israel’s recent move to allow Qatar to channel its reconstruction aid through Hamas, which is a US-designated terrorist group.

Kuperwasser told NPR that letting Qatar help Hamas will be beneficial for Israel in the long run. “We believe that better conditions in Gaza would lessen the incentive of Hamas and the population to go again to a war, so in a way, it is helping the deterrence,” he said.

Another report in Maan confirms this:

“Qatar continues to aid reconstruction efforts in the war-torn Gaza Strip as new projects start, says committee chief Muhammad al-Amadi.

“The reconstruction process is progressing very well as construction material is being shipped to Gaza everyday without any obstacles,” …Israel has approved all the Qatari-funded projects in the Gaza Strip, he said.

These developments may explain why the IDF Southern Command chief recently voiced surprisingly pragmatic statements concerning Hamas and the need for Israel to come to an understanding with it:

“Most of the citizens in the Strip see Hamas as the only solution to their problems.  Gaza has an independent authority that functions like a country,” said [Sammy] Turgeman in comments reported by the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, depicting Hamas in terms as much akin to a functioning state as to a militant group.

“There is a government and an annual plan, with executive bodies and inspection authorities. Within the country there is a ruler that is called Hamas which knows how to exercise power over the other authorities. As of now, there is no substitute ruler to replace Hamas in the strip.

The only replacement for Hamas is the IDF and authoritarian chaos. Other than Hamas there is no other axis that could control [Gaza].”

Turgeman added: “The [Palestinian] Authority cannot rule and this should be taken as an indisputable statement.”

Of course, the prime minister and his cabinet war hawks entirely dismiss this approach.  It remains to be seen whether whoever within Israel is shepherding this process (possibly the army and intelligence services?) can win over the hardliners who would like nothing more than to torpedo such a peace initiative.

Naturally, the PA is suspicious and mistrustful of any development that might present Hamas in a more favorable light.  It hates the plan.  The PA intelligence service recently warned Mahmoud Abbas about it and suggested that he approach the Egyptians to stop it.  This hasn’t happened, in part because the Egyptian military government, facing increasing levels of unrest and terrorism in the Sinai, is considering a rapprochement with Hamas.  Recently, Egypt opened the border with Rafah for several days as part of this reconciliation process.  The Egyptians expected as a quid pro quo that Hamas would aid Egypt’s military and intelligence services in the hunt for Islamist terrorists in Sinai.  Note, this contradicts repeated (and questionable) IDF claims that Sinai militants work together with Hamas in perpetrating terror attacks.

Hamas hardliner, Mahmoud Zahar, leads a faction opposed to any deal with either Israel or Egypt.  He represents the view of Hamas’ military wing.  The movement’s political wing is eager for any plan that would involve improving the quality of life for average Gazans since the war last summer, which made life a sheer misery for most residents.  Further, an ISIS affiliate, Ansar Jerusalem, recently announced that it planned to challenge and defeat Hamas in the enclave.  Though it’s doubtful the group has the muscle to fulfill its threat, just the name ISIS is enough to instill fear in the hearts of Hamas’ political wing.

Hamas has much more to gain from this project than Israel, which is why it’s likely to fail.  But just its existence is a positive development.

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ezra sheinberg

Rabbi Ezra Sheinberg, deposed after accusations of rape among married female followers

Israeli Orthodox Rabbi Ezra Sheinberg, until recently head of a yeshiva and other institutions in Tzfat and Kiryat Shmona, was arrested by Israeli police at Ben Gurion Airport as he attempted to flee the country.  His name may not be reported in Israel according to a judicial gag order obtained by the police.  He stands accused by married women among his followers of engaging in sexual acts and rape.  He was removed from his state-funded post after the investigation began.

Sheinberg was ordained by Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, then the former chief Sephardic rabbi of Israel.  The elder Rabbi Eliyahu appointed his son, Shmuel, the chief rabbi of Tzfat.  The younger Eliyahu is a notorious bigot known throughout the country for his racist views toward Palestinians.

Sheinberg founded a pre-military yeshiva in Tzfat in 1999.  This phenomenon has contributed markedly to the massive increases in settler officers and a rightist slant among the IDF officer corps.  He also led 3,000 settlers in prayer at Joseph’s Tomb a holy site in Nablus under contention between radical settlers and Muslims.

eliezer berland

Rabbi Berland on his way to court in full religious regalia (EPA)

Sheinberg has cultivated relationships with the Israeli Orthodox women’s community.  This rebbetzin even boasts of taking spiritual and halachic supervision from him.  I imagine this passage may disappear from her website soon (unless she is one of his victims).

The yeshiva he founded, Yeshivat Ha’Ari, has removed his biographical page, which is preserved here (in Hebrew).

In a similar development, Rabbi Eliezer Berland is resisting deportation from Holland to Israel, where he stands accused of similar sexual crimes.  Berland has taken to donning his full religious regalia in court hearings, including tallit and tefillin.  This is certainly not just an exploitation, but a perversion of Judaism in order to save the neck of an accused sex abuser.  It would make Moses roll over in his grave and should make most Jews sick to their stomach.

 

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