Man charged with setting off bombs in 6 religious courts
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Man charged with setting off bombs in 6 religious courts

Zion Cohen accused of dressing as homeless person to set explosive charges in attempt to stop services to secular public, seeking to separate synagogue and state

View of the rabbinical court in Tel Aviv on August 3, 2017. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
View of the rabbinical court in Tel Aviv on August 3, 2017. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

A man was charged Sunday at the Central District Court with carrying out a number of arson attacks on rabbinical courts and councils, accused of setting explosive charges in the buildings of the religious authorities while disguised as a homeless person.

The Justice Ministry said the man carried out the attacks with the aim of preventing the provision of religious services to the secular public to further his goal of separating religion and state.

According to Channel 13 news, in January 2019, Zion Cohen, 68, disguised himself as a homeless person and began to carry out reconnaissance trips to religious authorities.

At the same time, he attended a locksmith course, experimented with combustion materials at a storage unit in the Merom Golan area where he lived, purchased equipment and materials and started to produce incendiary charges.

According to the indictment, in May 2020 Cohen took the explosive charges and while again disguised as a homeless person, hid them at the locations of six religious authorities — the Rabbinical Court in Petah Tikva, the Ashdod Religious Council, the Tel Aviv Religious Council, the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court, the Kfar Saba Religious Council and the Kfar Saba Rabbinical Court.

All the charges exploded at the same time and caused damage worth tens of thousands of shekels. The charges went off in the early hours of a Saturday morning when the buildings could be expected to be deserted. There were no reports of injuries.

Cohen was indicted on multiple arson charges, the manufacturing of weapons, possession of weapons, attempting to destroy property with explosive material, aggravated illegal entry to a nonresidential building and attempted arson.

Cohen is also reportedly accused of a 2005 arson attack on the Tel Aviv rabbinical court that caused NIS 2.7 million worth of damage.

The division between religion and state has long been a hot topic in Israel, with debates on issues such as regulating ultra-Orthodox students’ military draft exemptions, civil marriage and divorce, pluralist prayer areas at the Western Wall, and public transportation and shopping on Shabbat.

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