Set to receive state prize, singer accused of sexual harassment

Woman says Shlomo Gronich touched her inappropriately 25 years ago when she was 17, asks education minister to withhold award

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Singer Shlomo Gronich performs at a concert, June 14, 2017. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)
Singer Shlomo Gronich performs at a concert, June 14, 2017. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

A woman has filed a lawsuit against a veteran Israeli singer who is to be honored with a state-awarded lifetime achievement prize, saying he sexually harassed her during an encounter 25 years ago, when she was 17.

The woman, who is also a singer, has asked Education Minister Naftali Bennett to withhold the prestigious Prize for Jewish Culture from Shlomo Gronich.

“From the moment I found out that the Education Ministry planned to give Gronich the Lifetime Achievement Award, I have been restless and in turmoil,” the woman wrote to Bennett.

“I was sent to meet him on behalf of a youth group I was a member of, and he allowed himself to bring completely inappropriate sexual elements into the conversation, and suddenly touched my chest in a humiliating way. Minister, please cancel the awarding of the prize,” she wrote.

The woman, who was not named in Hebrew media reports, began a social media campaign publicizing her accusations in the hope that other victims, whom she said she was aware of, will come forward. She began the campaign several weeks ago, after Gronich was named as the recipient of the coveted prize.

Gronich, 68, is to receive the prize, which is worth NIS 150,000 ($43,000) at a ceremony on Monday evening.

The Education Ministry, which awards the prize, said it will look into the matter.

“I have received information from other girls, dramatic information, but I do not want to ruin their privacy,” the woman wrote in a Facebook post, according to Channel 2. “We will break the silence around this story. Perhaps it will lift the stone that is in our hearts. People who harass, or rapists, do not deserve any prize.”

The woman told the news site Ynet Monday that Gronich came to see a performance of the youth band she was in and that she told him she had written a song she wanted to put to music. He invited her to his home and they watched a movie together and ate some grapes.

“During the film he took a grape and rolled it on my chest. I was very shocked. I got up and took a taxi home,” the woman said.

Poet Meir Wieseltier, an acquaintance of Gronich, dismissed the claims on Monday, suggesting that the woman was seeking vengeance for Gronich’s criticism of her singing abilities.

“It sounds like the complainant is getting revenge because he insulted her when he said that she will never be a singer,” he told Army Radio.

Police said that they still need to be clarify whether a crime was committed based on what the woman told them, and that apparently the statute of limitations will apply. Police have not yet decided whether they will call in Gronich for questioning, Haaretz reported.

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