Indictments Reveal 'Celebratory Atmosphere' in Gang Rape of 16-year-old in Israeli Resort Town

Drinking too much and standing by, seven are charged with seeing all and saying nothing, while four others indicted with raping a semi-conscious teen at an Eilat hotel

Almog Ben Zikri
Almog Ben Zikri
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One of the suspected perpetrators of the Eilat gang rape being arrested, August 2020.
One of the suspected perpetrators of the Eilat gang rape being arrested, August 2020. Credit: AMIR COHEN/Reuters
Almog Ben Zikri
Almog Ben Zikri

Israel’s state attorney filed an indictment on Wednesday against three adults and eight minors over the August gang rape of a 16-year-old girl in a hotel in the Red Sea resort city of Eilat.

The investigation reveals new details about the event and the alleged perpetrators. The main suspects are Issi Refaelov and Elizir Meirov, two 27-year-old men, both residents of the coastal city of Hadera.

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The other suspects are from two different groups, but all from central Israel. Most of their names are barred from publication, as they are under 18.

The investigation shows that the victim checked into Eilat's Red Sea Hotel with a friend on August 12. They spent several hours at pool with a group of friends, where, the police learned, one of the main suspects came onto the victim. She rejected him when learning of his age; the police said he later tried to pass himself off as younger.

The group then went up to one of the rooms, where they drank alcohol. Security footage seen by police during the investigation showed that underage drinking was a regular occurrence at the hotel, leading law enforcement to ask the hotel to ramp up supervision.

The Red Sea hotel where the alleged gang rape of a 16-year-old took place in the resort town of Eilat, August 2020.
The Red Sea hotel where the alleged gang rape of a 16-year-old took place in the resort town of Eilat, August 2020.Credit: Liav Peled

At some point, the victim, wanting to wash her face, left the room with her friend to find a hotel bathroom, as the one in the room was filthy. On her way, she stumbled and fell, and a crowd, mostly minors, gathered to help her. This is when the suspect who earlier flirted with her burst in, pretending to have medical training. Together with his alleged accomplice, he took her into another room, where, after everyone else left, they overpowered her and raped her.

“At this point, the rumor spread in the hallway that there was a naked girl that was being screwed, and the flies started gathering very quickly around the room and swarming outside it,” a source familiar with the investigation told Haaretz. The room’s door was broken, so the minors were able to open it and threw one another into the room. “There really was a celebratory atmosphere in the hallway,” the source said. “They were trying to take advantage of the opportunity.”

According to the police, the victim's friend, also a minor, did not grasp the gravity of the situation. The investigation shows she went in to check on the victim at points when nothing was happening; the adults also sent her to buy hygienic products for her friend. It is only when she noticed someone was naked in the room that she called for help from another young man, who had himself earlier been involved in the rape. He helped her to take the victim out of the room.

Israelis protest against sexual violence following the alleged gang rape of a 16-year-old in Eilat, Tel Aviv, August 2020.
Israelis protest against sexual violence following the alleged gang rape of a 16-year-old in Eilat, Tel Aviv, August 2020.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

Two days after the incident, the victim received a text message from the first perpetrator's phone, telling her they had recordings of the event. It is only then that she and her friend realized what happened, and they decided to go to the police. The phone was used to film the act, leading to charges of privacy violation and obscene publication. The two main suspects blame each other for sending the message. 

The first suspect has a lengthy criminal record, which includes trespassing, traffic violations, drug possession, making threats and other offenses. In one case, he was documented causing a disturbance while drunk on a bus. He sent air kisses to female passengers, and then told a female police officer that came to arrest him, “How I’d love to take a bit out of you, how I’d love to rape you.” Documents from the investigation suggest that he was the only person to remain in the room the entire hour during which the rape took place.

It took several days for the prosecutor's office to determine what charges the seven that were not charged with rape would be facing. In the end, they range from failure to prevent a crime for those who witnessed the incident and were aware of what was going on, to solicitation of indecent assault for those who were there for a substantial amount of time within the room while the rape was taking place. The minor who helped to get the victim out of the room was charged with facilitating rape, because he was there while other minors were violating her.

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