The Jewish Agency building in Jerusalem.
The Jewish Agency building in Jerusalem. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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Four days after an American participant in a Jewish Agency-sponsored program shot and killed a colleague at an Eilat hotel, the leader of the program is stepping down, in a move that he says was planned long before the fatal incident.

In an e-mail that was obtained late last night by Haaretz, Ofer Gutman, the Director of Long Term Israel Programs for the Israel Way/Oranim Project, wrote that his departure, after three years, was planned "a month ago."

A spokesman for Israel Way, Yuval Arad, told Haaretz that Gutman's departure was unconnected to last Friday's fatal shooting at the Leonardo Club Hotel in Eilat, where 23-year-old William Hershkovitz, an Oranim participant at the hotel, stole a firearm from a security guard and opened fire, killing 33-year-old Armando Abed, a chef at the hotel. Hershkovitz, a native of Poughkeepsie, New York, was later killed by police during an exchange of gunfire. The Jewish Agency for Israel is probing Hershkovitz's acceptance into the "work-experience" program.

"This resignation was planned months ago," Arad told Haaretz, noting that Gutman's successor has already been named. Gutman will serve as CEO of "JVP Community," a Jerusalem-based organization that will "lead a process of modifying and improving the quality of social and cultural life in Israel," according to the e-mail.

In a postscript to the letter that mentions the shooting, Gutman noted "this extreme event which could not be foreseen in any way" and his efforts, along with Oranim management, to take "care of all the different aspects involved, and mainly supporting the program participants and staff coordinators."