Why Is a Rabbi Bringing Hummus to Israeli Rape Suspects in Cyprus?

I asked the Chabad rabbi in Larnaca why he's pampering a group of Israelis jailed there on suspicion of gang rape

Shneor Levitin.

On the line with Rabbi Shneor Levitin, Chabad House, Larnaca, Cyprus

Shalom. You called me?

Yes, thanks for getting back to me.

With whom am I speaking?

This is Shneor Levitin, right?

Yes.

Nir Gontarz here. I’m a journalist with Haaretz. How are you?

Wonderful – God be blessed.

Fine. You’re the Chabad emissary in Larnaca and Ayia Napa, right?

Right.

I’ve heard that you’re looking after the young Israelis who are suspected of raping a British tourist.

We’re bringing them food, yes.

Can you tell me a little more about the connection between Chabad and the suspects?

Uh, there’s no special connection. It’s just that every Jew who has a problem, we help him and give him a little food.

Why do the detainees need food from Chabad House?

Why do they want food from Chabad House?

Don’t the police supply food?

The food there is a little, uh … a little not good.

You broke up, I didn’t catch all that.

Sometimes the food there isn’t great and they want home-style food.

I understand.

So we bring them food that’s both kosher and also home-cooked, food they know.

Is that all right with the police?

Yes, yes, yes.

The police let you take food to them?

Sure.

Probably because you say it’s kosher, right?

It’s both kosher and from Israel. Things they're familiar with.

Such as?

You know, hummus, things like that from back home. It gives them a bit of a feeling …

And if I tell you that to me that sounds a bit odd?

I don’t deal with what it sounds like, or what people do. I don’t [laughs] ... Every person who’s in trouble …

They’re in detention because of the local authorities’ very serious suspicions. They didn’t get lost, or lose their passports.

I don’t deal with what they did or didn’t do. Whether things are true or untrue. Uh, uh, everything a person does – all in all, we just give basic help.

Yes, hummus. Tell me, do the detainees need kosher food? Do they eat kosher? The food they ate until they were detained – and all the alcohol they bought – was that kosher?

It doesn’t make a difference.

So?

That doesn’t make a difference. Every person who is … who is for … who is a Jew, who is an Israeli – we help them.

Help that’s dependent on something.

That doesn’t interest us. We’re not in that position.

Meaning?

We’re not the police, not judges. We’re not in any position.

Do you know if Chabad pampers detainees in Israel, too?

We’re people who live here.

Okay.

As a Chabad House, we will give every Jew food. That’s it. It’s very simple. There’s no need to get too far into theories here.

Are you also helping the young British woman?

(Talking in the background) Yes. Everyone.

But is she Jewish?

We help every person.

The young British woman, too?

If they would ask – yes, of course.

But you’ve said repeatedly that you only help Jews.

We help every person.

You’re confusing me, Shneor.

I’d like to say “good evening” to you and that’s it.

Why aren’t you nice to me like you are to the detainees? Asking questions about what you do is graver than a suspicion of rape?

Good day and good morning. A successful day to us.

Does it annoy you because I find it odd that Chabad House is pampering Israeli teens who went to Ayia Napa for orgies and screwing?

No. We don’t want to denounce people.

Or maybe rapists.

You people, you have an interest in denouncing people.

“We” have no interest in denouncing people. “We” are trying to understand why they need hummus in detention. Only because they’re Jews?

We look at people favorably. That’s all. Good day.

Fine, I hear that you’re about to hang up. So can I have two orders of hummus with a little oil?

Good day.

I’m a Jew!

(Hangs up.)