Appeal Filed to Overturn Court Decision Not to Convict Israeli Youth Filmed Attacking Left-wing Rabbi

A juvenile court decided not to find Israeli youth guilty for attacking Rabbi Arik Ascherman and threatening him with knife; Interior Minister writes letter of support for youth saying he has a 'big heart'

A settler attacks Rabbis for Human Rights right Rabbi Arik Ascherman with a knife near the settlement of Itamar in West Bank. October 23, 2015.
Rabbis for Human Rights

The prosecutor’s office filed an appeal Thursday to overturn a ruling by a juvenile court in Petah Tikva which ruled not to find a resident of a West Bank outpost guilty of attacking left-wing activist Rabbi Arik Ascherman and threatening him with a knife, even though the incident was caught on video.

The decision not to convict the defendant in the 2015 incident near the West Bank settlement of Itamar was handed down alongside a court order for the defendant to do 150 hours of community service.

In its ruling last month, the juvenile court refrained from convicting the defendant, who was a minor at the time of the offense but is now over 18. Their decision was taken in part, it was reported, because the court did not want to complicate the defendant’s prospects of serving in the Israeli army. The defendant’s name cannot be disclosed because his case was tried in juvenile court. In its appeal, the prosecution is seeking to have the defendant convicted and sentenced to six months in prison, to be served as community service.

The video shows the defendant attacking Ascherman with a stone and being threatened with a knife. Ascherman, a Reform rabbi, was head of the organization Rabbis for Human Rights at the time.

The incident began when the defendant spotted Ascherman and a foreign journalist near the West Bank outpost known as Hill 851, where the defendant was living at the time. He descended from the outpost, his face covered, carrying a 13 centimeter (5—inch) knife and two stones. When he approached Ascherman and the journalist, he drew the knife and demanded they leave the hill.

The defendant threw one of the stones at Ascherman, hitting the upper part of his body. He later punched Ascherman, brandished the knife again and kicked the rabbi. Ascherman began running away from the defendant, but the defendant caught up with him and kicked him again. He also grabbed Ascherman by the neck and threw him to his knees. He then hit Ascherman in the head and threw the second stone, which hit him in the arm. Ascherman broke a finger in the assault and was cut in the chest.

In the course of the trial, Interior Minister Arye Dery sent a letter stating he knew the defendant personally. He described him as someone who had a big heart and helped others. The probation department’s report in the case said the defendant was a “quality young person without patterns of criminality and the incident involving the offense was an exception in hin to his high personal abilities,” the court decided not to convict him.

The ruling in the case stands in contrast to the recent high profile case of Ahed Tamimi, the 16-year-old Palestinian girl who is awaiting military trial for slapping an Israeli soldier in December. She will not be released until the legal proceedings against her conclude, the judge in the case recently ruled.