Top Hadera Rabbi's Son Suspected in Deliberate Hit-and-run

The Supreme Court will announce its decision Thursday morning in the case of the yeshiva student.

The Supreme Court will announce its decision Thursday morning in the case of the yeshiva student who deliberately hit Noga Zoraish, a woman of Ethiopian origin, with his car. Wednesday the student's name was released, Itamar Biton, the son of the Sephardi chief rabbi of Hadera, Rabbi Shimon Biton.

Jerusalem District Court Judge Moshe Drori decided last September not to convict Biton, and the Supreme Court heard the state's appeal of the acquittal last week.

"I read the verdict and read it again, and couldn't comprehend how someone like that wasn't convicted. It's inconceivable," Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy said in reference to the decision. The case has provoked considerable interest, partly because of Drori's candidacy for a Supreme Court seat. For now, he is no longer a candidate due to public pressure in light of the decision.

Zoraish, a supermarket checkout clerk, lay down on the hood of Biton's car when he tried to leave the parking lot without paying the fee. He continued to drive, and Zoraish was thrown off his car. She sustained minor injuries. In Drori's explanation for his failure to convict, he said he did not want to harm the defendant's chances of being appointed a rabbinical court judge.

Rabbi Shimon Biton has served as the chief rabbi of Hadera for more than 30 years. The rabbi is considered Shas' most important figure in the city and is sometimes called the Rabbi Ovadia Yosef of Hadera. "Shas ministers who visit Hadera first come to see him," said one local politician; Emanuel Biton, another of the rabbi's sons, was elected to the city council in the last elections on the Shas slate.

"He is considered a [Torah] genius," said a local official. "He is an admired figure, mediates disputes, helps families in need and is considered a giant in Torah learning," he added. The rabbi also runs a yeshiva in the Givat Olga neighborhood of the city.