A few days ago, I broke the gag order on reporting the story of Dina Cohen, the young Israeli who crossed the frontier into Syria two weeks before that. In an act of political protest, she had repeatedly tried to violate Israeli “borders” with Gaza, Jordan and Syria. Her goal was to reject the notion of Israeli hostility towards its Arab neighbors and the notion of borders or separation between them.
Surprisingly, the gag order remains in place despite my reporting some of the main elements of the story. This indicates there may be more to tell that hasn’t yet been exposed.
An Israeli has posted a narrative which could explain the continuing suppression of the story. According to her, Dina came from a Haredi family closely tied to Israel’s leading Haredi Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky. Her father (not the Rabbi) sexually abused her. She went to the police and filed a complaint and her father was eventually sentenced to prison for rape. Instead of protecting her, the Haredi community rejected and ostracized her. Dina then left the Haredi world and became a rebel embracing freedom, rather than religious dogma.
Violence against women is endemic to Israel’s patriarchal society. But it is even more troubling in the Haredi community where numerous rabbis, whose authority is unquestioned, have been accused of sexual abuse.
It is a dark irony that the Biblical character, Dina, the sister of Jacob’s sons, was raped by a Canaanite tribal prince who, so the story claims, loved her and sought to marry her. Instead, Dinah’s brothers set a trap and slaughtered the rapist “suitor” and his fellow tribesmen. It is one of the more disturbing stories in the canon, revealing the deceit and cunning of these forefathers of the Jewish people.
When she was detained in Syria, members of Dina’s family began to lobby for the government to take action to free her. They were unhappy with the initial response. So they made clear that if Netanyahu didn’t act, they would publicly announce that Torah Judaism, the Haredi political party, would no longer preclude joining a coalition with Yair Lapid. This would pose a threat to Netanyahu in the event of a close election, which is what appears it will be.
Netanyahu responded by agreeing to a family meeting in Bnai Brak with his chief hostage negotiator representing him. Again, the family, represented by Kanievsky’s grandson, demanded action on her behalf. This, in turn, led to the eventual negotiation in which Dina was freed. In return, two Syrian shepherds who, according to Michael Sfard, may have been deliberately kidnapped by the IDF to use as bargaining chips in just such an eventuality, were returned to Syria. Israel also agreed to purchase over 1-million doses of the Russian Sputnik COVID vaccine on behalf of the Assad regime.
I cannot verify the accuracy of the Facebook post. In particular I find it difficult to believe that Dina, who would appear to be Mizrahit, is related to Kanievsky, who is Ashkenazi. But it does confirm some of the claims I’d heard earlier from Israeli sources. And it also explains why the gag order has not been removed. Because to do so would open Netanyahu to further accusations of exploiting this event for political gain, a trademark of his political career. With the level of protest against his corruption mounting ever higher in the streets, it’s in his interest to minimize such negative publicity.
But as I’ve written before, a country that handles sensitive matters like this with opacity only fuels rumors which may or may not be true. The answer is a transparent, open and free society in which matters of great public import can be aired and reported fully.