Jewish extremist remains in jail as son is circumcised
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Jewish extremist remains in jail as son is circumcised

Rejecting offer to conduct ceremony in prison, family holds brit in Jerusalem after courts rule that Meir Eittinger is public threat

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

The circumcision of Netzach Binyamin Ettinger in Jerusalem on April 4, 2016.  (Ari Abramowitz/courtesy)
The circumcision of Netzach Binyamin Ettinger in Jerusalem on April 4, 2016. (Ari Abramowitz/courtesy)

The family of jailed Jewish extremist Meir Ettinger held the circumcision for his son without him in a Jerusalem synagogue on Monday, after the Supreme Court earlier in the day upheld a ruling by a lower court against granting him furlough.

Justices Noam Sohlberg, Uzi Fogelman and Esther Hayut agreed with the Beersheba District Court, which on Sunday rejected a petition requesting Ettinger be granted leave, on the grounds he remained a security threat to the public. Ettinger has been in administrative detention for seven months.

In their ruling, the justices said the proposal by the Israel Prisons Service to hold a scaled-down circumcision at the jail’s synagogue and visitors center was a fair compromise.

But Ettinger’s wife, Moriah, said the proposal, which would have allowed the attendance of just 15 family members, was unacceptable.

Instead, the ceremony was held at the Kahal Chasidim synagogue in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Shaarei Hessed, and was attended by hundreds of friends and family members, one of the attendees said.

The circumcision of Netzach Binyamin Ettinger in Jerusalem on April 4, 2016. (Ari Abramowitz/courtesy)
The circumcision of Netzach Binyamin Ettinger in Jerusalem on April 4, 2016. (Ari Abramowitz/courtesy)

The eight-day-old baby was named Netzach Binyamin, meaning “eternal Binyamin” in an apparent reference to Binyamin Zeev Kahane, Meir Ettinger’s uncle, who was murdered by Palestinian terrorists in the West Bank in 2000.

“Israelis from around the country came not only to show their support for the Ettinger family in the wake of the infuriatingly unjust administrative detention without charges, but to celebrate this joyous occasion of the addition of Netzach Binyamin Ettinger to the Jewish people,” said Ari Abramowitz, a friend of the Ettinger family who attended the Jerusalem ceremony.

Ettinger, the grandson of assassinated extremist Meir Kahane, is accused of being a key figure in a loose band of youths suspected of a string of nationalist hate crimes targeting Palestinians, Christians and even Israeli soldiers.

Meir Ettinger, the head of a Jewish extremist group, stands at the Israeli justice court in Nazareth Illit on August 4, 2015. (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)
Meir Ettinger, the head of a Jewish extremist group, stands at the Israeli justice court in Nazareth Illit on August 4, 2015. (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)

The 23-year-old was arrested in August under a controversial measure that allows officials to hold suspects without charging them, days after a lethal firebomb attack on a Palestinian home in the West Bank that killed three members of the Dawabsha family.

Israel has charged a man and a minor over the attack, which triggered a crackdown on Jewish extremists, although Ettinger has not been directly linked to the incident.

According to reports, both the Shin Bet security service and the Prisons Service recommended that Ettinger be denied his request for leave for the ceremony.

Lawyers from Honenu, a legal organization that defends right-wing extremists, said Ettinger was a victim of a political witch hunt.

“The Shin Bet continues to wage unrestricted violence against Jews. Why? Because they look and think differently from them,” said attorney Shmuel Meidad, according to the ultra-Orthodox news site Behadrei Haredim.

“Now we have a situation where a father is being denied the opportunity to fulfill the mitzva of circumcising his son,” he said.

After the judges delivered their verdict, one of Ettinger’s brothers got up and shouted, “You are trying to re-educate us, you Bolsheviks!” Court security guards ejected him from building.

Supreme Court Justice Esther Hayut (C) sits with Justice Noam Sohlberg (R) and Justice Uzi Fogelman during a court hearing for Meir Ettinger at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on April 4, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Supreme Court Justice Esther Hayut (C) sits with Justice Noam Sohlberg (R) and Justice Uzi Fogelman during a court hearing for Meir Ettinger at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on April 4, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Moriah Ettinger told Behadrei Haredim that the couple refused to have the ceremony at the jail because the terms — which included rigorous security checks for all of the guests — were humiliating.

“Who would want to have a circumcision under the auspices of the Shin Bet and under such heavy security where our guests would feel degraded,” she said. “I still cannot believe that they have denied my husband the right to participate in his son’s circumcision. It’s illogical, and goes against Jewish values.”

A priest inspects the damage caused to the Church of the Multiplication at Tabgha, on the Sea of Galilee, in northern Israel, which was set on fire in what police suspect was an arson attack, June 18, 2015. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)
A priest inspects the damage caused to the Church of the Multiplication at Tabgha, on the Sea of Galilee, in northern Israel, which was set on fire in what police suspect was an arson attack, June 18, 2015. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

Under administrative detention — an anti-terror measure more commonly used for Palestinian security prisoners — a detainee can be held for six months without being charged or tried. The order can be renewed indefinitely in six-month increments.

Ettinger was previously arrested in August 2015 for “involvement in violent activities and terrorist attacks that occurred recently, and his role as part of a Jewish terrorist group.”

Shin Bet officials have said Ettinger heads a movement that was responsible for the June 2015 arson attack at the historic Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, and seeks to bring down the government and replace it with a Jewish theocracy.

Ettinger was recently transferred to solitary confinement and has limited, monitored contact with his family.

Raoul Wootliff and AFP contributed to this report.

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