Israeli artist Boaz Arad was found dead Friday morning at his home in Tel Aviv, a day after a story aired on Hadashot news accusing him of having sexual relations with female students while working as a teacher at the Thelma Yellin High School in Givatayim.
Arad, who worked in video, sculpting, photography and painting, was found hanged, and is believed to have taken his own life.
The Mako website, operated by Hadashot, on Thursday published the testimony of a former student of Arad, who claimed that at 16 she began a four-year affair with the teacher.
Mako claimed to have information about three more cases in which Arad had allegedly been sexually involved with students — all of whom were minors — at Thelma Yellin.
Arad, who was confronted with the allegations, at first confirmed that he had been in relationships with former students after they had completed their studies. After being pressed on the allegations, Arad admitted that he had been romantically involved with one student during her studies at the school, though he denied having sex with her.
According to Mako, Arad told journalist Yana Pevzner Bashan during their conversation that he would commit suicide if the allegations were published. “I will not be able to look my mother in the eye if you publish the testimonies,” Arad said.
“I’m not in a position to defend myself because you did not reveal the names of the women to me. All I have left now is to shoot myself.”
In response to Arad’s remarks, Mako contacted the police and requested that they ensure that Arad did not harm himself. Policemen reportedly took Arad to the station and interviewed him, but allowed him to return home after deciding he was not a suicide threat.
Mako on Friday defended its decision to publish the allegations against Arad, saying that it had substantial evidence pointing to the accuracy of the claims.
“We at Mako share the grief of the Arad family at this difficult time. He was a great artist and teacher who educated many generations of artists,” a piece by chief editor Uri Rozen read. “But human tragedy does not change the facts we revealed yesterday about the dark chapters of his life.”
“Even before our conversation with Arad, and even more so after the final decision to publish the article, we repeatedly checked ourselves. We checked the facts and the wording. We wanted to make sure that all the details we brought forth were accurate and that they were of interest to the public, among other reasons, because Arad continued until his death to serve actively as a teacher in educational institutions,” Rozen continued.
“As journalists, our job sometimes requires us to publish unpleasant facts about institutions and people… We take our responsibility very seriously, remembering that on the other side of the journalistic work are people who might get hurt, and that even if the claims attributed to them are serious, they deserve attention and fair treatment,” Rozen said.
“But a journalist who is aware that a high school teacher has conducted such forbidden relationships in a serial manner and chooses not to publish the information is a sinner to the truth, a sinner to the profession of journalism, and above all a sinner to the victims.”
Two weeks ago, the Thelma Yellin High School was rocked by allegations against a former music teacher at the institution, Menahem Nevenhoiz, who was accused of sexually harassing at least 20 students. The allegations against Nevenhoiz included instances of sodomy and rape of some of the students as well. However, police closed the investigation into the case due to obsolescence.