The mayor of the West Bank settlement of Immanuel was charged with corruption on Tuesday.
Charges were also filed against a senior official of the local Chabad Lubavitch Hasidic community, whose name is under a gag order.
According to the indictment, the two men agreed that Ezra Gershi, who has served as the settlement’s mayor on behalf of the Shas party since 2008, would promote Chabad’s interests if Chabad’s large local community voted for him. But the agreement was implemented only in part.
The indictment covers events that took place before the 2013 municipal election. It says that Gershi promised to employ Chabad members in the local government and give the group financial support if Chabad members backed his candidacy. As a guarantee that the agreement would be honored, Gershi deposited 300,000 shekels ($83,000) with a rabbi trusted by both sides.
Inter alia, Gershi promised to appoint the second defendant to a senior salaried position in the municipality and to fund religious institutions with which the second defendant was affiliated. He also promised to appoint Chabad members to the town’s education department and give the second defendant veto power of the appointment of the town’s legal advisor.
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Gershi kept some of these promises. Inter alia, the indictment says, he gave an organization connected to the second defendant 10,000 shekels in municipal funding. But according to local Chabad activists, other promises weren’t kept.
Sharon Nahari, Gershi’s attorney, said he was confident his client would be acquitted.
“We regret that the state prosecution decided to indict a man who has devoted his whole life to public activity and helping others,” Nahari said. “Ezra Gershi is a beloved mayor who has done a great deal for residents of the Immanuel Regional Council. He’s a man with values, which the indictment doesn’t jibe with.”