A veteran Israeli singer, who was honored with a state-awarded lifetime achievement prize, did not show up to the award ceremony Monday following accusations of sexual harassment against minors dating back decades.
Shlomo Gronich, 68, was awarded the prestigious Prize for Jewish Culture, which is worth NIS 150,000 ($43,000). However, he did not accept the award; his wife, Michal Adler, received the prize on his behalf.
The first complaint against Gronich surfaced recently, after a woman asked the Education Ministry to refrain from awarding Gronich the prize, saying he had sexually harassed her during an encounter 25 years ago, when she was 17.
A second woman came forward Monday, telling Channel 2 that Gronich had drugged her and tried to rape her when she was a minor.
“I was 16-years-old, I was at his performance and I had a dream of being a successful singer,” she said.” I came to him after the performance and asked him if I could play my songs for him. He said ‘gladly’ and gave me his phone number.”
The woman then went on to describe how the singer invited her to his home.
“I came to play my songs for him and he offered me weed or hashish, and maybe there was even coke, and he began to caress me,” said the woman, whose face and voice were concealed. “Maybe I drank something or maybe he put something into my glass, I just know that I don’t remember how I ended up naked in his bed.”
“He offered me four kinds of condoms, there was an attempt at penetration without success — the body simply did not allow it,” she said.
Adler, who is also a musician, accepted the prize on behalf of her husband, telling the audience how proud she was of him.
“My husband deserves this prize and I come here with pride and full faith in Shlomo, who has contributed so much to the country,” she said. “I’m not concerned, everything’s fine.”
The first complainant had asked Education Minister Naftali Bennett to withhold the award from 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, filed a lawsuit against a veteran Israeli singer. She also launched 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.
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, Channel 2 reported. “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 on Monday that Gronich came to see a performance of the youth band she was in and that she told him she had written a poem 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.
A woman named Rina Rada, who said she sang in a choir under the direction of Gronich for some 10 years, came to the defense of the singer.
She wrote on her Facebook page that during her time in the choir, Gronich was like a father figure to her and to the other girls.
She wrote that she was shocked by the accusations, and that her experience was entirely the opposite.
Poet Meir Wieseltier, an acquaintance of Gronich, also 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 said that the statute of limitations may apply. Police have not yet decided whether they will call in Gronich for questioning, Haaretz reported.