Lehava activist probed for harassment served time for Jewish-Arab school arson

Now alleged to have sexually abused a minor, Yitzhak Gabai was sentenced to 3 years for 2014 torching of Jerusalem school, is apparently still associated with extreme-right group

Yitzhak Gabai, a member of the extreme right-wing Lehava organization, at the District Court in Jerusalem on December 1, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Yitzhak Gabai, a member of the extreme right-wing Lehava organization, at the District Court in Jerusalem on December 1, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

An activist in the extreme-right Lehava group who was questioned by police this week over a sexual harassment complaint was identified as Yitzhak Gabai, who served time in prison for torching a Jewish-Arab school in Jerusalem.

Gabai is under investigation over suspicions he sexually harassed a teenage activist in the group. The girl was 17 years old at the time of the incident, according to the Kan public broadcaster. Channel 12 news said the alleged harassment occurred 10 months ago.

Gabai was sentenced to three years in prison for torching the Max Rayne Hand in Hand School in Jerusalem in 2014. He was found guilty on separate counts of arson, carrying an illegal weapon, and incitement to violence on social media.

Two other men were convicted in the arson attack. The three set fire to the school and spray-painted on its walls racist messages such as “There is no coexistence with cancer”; “Death to the Arabs”; and “Kahane was right,” a reference to the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, a mentor of the Jewish ultranationalist movement.

Inside the Max Rayne Hand In Hand Jerusalem School, an Arab-Jewish school that was vandalized on November 28, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90/JTA)

The now 27-year-old Gabai was probed by police over the recent alleged sexual harassment on Tuesday. His identity was published on Thursday.

Lehava attempted to cover up the sexual harassment claims, according to reports, with Kan saying the female activist’s employment was terminated after she complained.

Lehava told the television stations that it fired the suspect after the incident, but both reports cited sources as saying Gabai continued to maintain ties with the group.

“This was an innocent mistake made because of a misreading of the situation. I apologized immediately and also later. My activity in the organization was immediately halted and I apologize for the entire situation,” Gabai told Channel 12 Wednesday, before being identified.

Illustrative: Activists from the extremist Jewish group Lehava protest against Jerusalem’s pride parade, August 3, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The teenager worked in a call center operated by Lehava that the suspect ran, according to Channel 12.

Lehava, headed by Bentzi Gopstein, opposes intermarriage and assimilation of Jews, as well as LGBT rights, and tries to stifle any public activity by non-Jews in Israel, including coexistence events.

Lawmakers across the political spectrum have tried to designate it as a terrorist group.

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