Court Told of Rabbi's Threats

A special court that has been convened to hear testimony against Netivot Rabbi Yoram Abergil, met last night in the Jerusalem offices of former Sephardi Chief Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron.

Put together by Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the court is to hear charges from the wives of some of Abergil's students, concerning threats against them, as well as sexual harassment in the form of intimate suggestions made to them by the rabbi.

Since the affair became public knowledge in Netivot, the families who have complained have been ostracized and persecuted. They have received threats on their lives, and students at kollels (yeshivas for married men) have been beaten and have filed complaints with the police.

In an inflammatory speech, Abergil at one point called on his followers to hurt the people accusing him of wrongdoing, although he later recanted.

The court has also collected additional testimony from former students who suffered similar abuse from Abergil, as well as from Netivot residents who were threatened because of their relationships with those making the complaints.

Abergil's secretary Erez Reuven: "The charges are fabricated and we trust Rabbi Ovadia to bring the truth to light."

Shas sources said last night that Industry Minister Eli Yishai, an Abergil associate, is working actively behind the scenes to bring the affair to a close.