Rabbinic court bomber, who sought to separate religion and state, gets 3 years

Zion Cohen, 69, also fined NIS 10,000 for six attacks last year on religious courts he said were an attempt to stop services to secular public

The entrance to the Rabbinical Court of Tel Aviv, November 27, 2013. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
The entrance to the Rabbinical Court of Tel Aviv, November 27, 2013. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A man was sentenced to three years in prison for carrying out a series of arson bombings of religious courts that were motivated by his desire to see a separation of religion and state in Israel.

The Lod District Court on Tuesday also ordered Zion Cohen, 69, to pay a NIS 10,000 ($3,110) fine.

Cohen confessed that he carried out the attacks with the aim of preventing the provision of religious services to the secular public in order to further his goal of separating religion and state.

Court papers showed that Cohen became enraged against the religious establishment after learning that two women he was acquainted with alleged they were sexually assaulted by men from the religious community. His anger was stoked further after he read on social media about the influence of religious courts on the lives of secular Israelis.

Presiding judge Ami Kobo noted that Cohen only showed regret that his actions did not generate as much public attention as he expected.

“Even today, the accused struggles to comprehend the consequences of his actions, and believes that those around him reacted disproportionately to his actions,” Kobo wrote.

Nonetheless, the judge said he took into consideration Cohen’s mental health, his age, and his lack of a criminal record. In addition, consideration was given to the fact that his attacks were timed so as not to cause any injuries.

According to his indictment, in January 2019 Cohen 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.

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.

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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