Popular rabbi nabbed at airport over sex crimes accusations

Suspect resigned his position as yeshiva head, left city of Safed after woman said he raped her 13 years ago

Passenger at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, May 8, 2014. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash 90)
Passenger at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, May 8, 2014. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash 90)

A prominent rabbi from northern Israel who was accused of several counts of sexual assault was arrested at Ben-Gurion Airport on Wednesday night as he was attempting to leave the country.

The rabbi, who has not been named, was accused Wednesday of sexually assaulting a woman who had approached him for religious guidance 13 years ago. On Wednesday evening, a second sexual assault complaint was filed against him.

Police proceeded to detain the rabbi at the airport for interrogation. A remand hearing was scheduled for Thursday morning.

The rabbi had recently resigned from his position and left his hometown of Safed, under pressure from a committee of local rabbis.

The team of local rabbis, led by Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, began investigating the allegations two weeks ago, and later reported it to the police.

“In consultation with various sources, and psychologists and professionals, the rabbi was asked to resign, and he did so immediately from his role of yeshiva head,” the rabbis told Channel 2 in a statement.

“He agreed to leave the city until the facts were clarified,” they added.

The rabbi has denied all the charges against him, his lawyer told Hebrew media.

The rabbi was described by Hebrew media reports as a popular Kabbalist, yeshiva head, and respected figure in Israel’s national-religious community who also built bridges with the Hasidic public.

The women had approached the rabbinic council some two weeks ago with the allegations, and were directed on Wednesday by the body to report it to the police, the Walla news website reported.

Eliyahu told the news website the women were initially reluctant to report the allegations to the police. The rabbis then turned to the cops with the charges, but were informed they could not file a complaint on behalf of the women, Eliyahu said.

“In light of the numerous complainants, we approached the police this week of our own initiative, and during this meeting, it became clear that only if the women maintain there is something criminal in his actions and complains, can an investigation be opened,” the chief rabbi said.

According to Channel 10, the women had approached the rabbi for religious counsel and a blessing for fertility after they struggled to conceive.

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