Haredi Teen Who Threatened to Kill Leader of Conservative Movement in Israel to Be Prosecuted

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Members of Women of the Wall praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, November 2017.
Members of Women of the Wall praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, November 2017.Credit: Hila Shiloni

An ultra-Orthodox teenager who made death threats against the head of the Conservative movement in Israel and against activists of Women of the Wall, the feminist prayer group, will be prosecuted.

According to notifications sent this week by representatives of the Jerusalem police to several individuals who had filed complaints about the threats, a first hearing in the case will be held on June 11. The accused's name cannot be published because he is a minor.

>> On Women of the Wall and provocation | Opinion 

His death threats were issued during a Women of the Wall prayer service held at Jerusalem’s Western Wall in December.

This is the first time that threats against Women of the Wall and its supporters have led to an indictment. The threats were issued against Yizhar Hess, director of the Conservative movement in Israel; Anat Hoffman, chair of Women of the Wall; and another male supporter of the feminist prayer group who did not want to be named.

Hess published a photo of the accused teen in a Facebook post following the prayer service. In the post, he wrote that the young man said the following to him: “I will murder you, if I had a knife I’d put it in you here. If I had an ace I’d take it like this, in your head. You’re a heretic. It’s permitted to kill you.”

FILE Photo: Yizhar Hess at the Western Wall in 2016. Credit: Emil Salman

Hess subsequently filed a complaint with police, who launched an investigation. Complaints were filed separately by Hoffman and the other Women of the Wall supporter, who had also taken a video of the teen threatening him.

A week after Hess was threatened, Conservative movement leaders abroad sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu imploring him to "condemn unequivocally, and in the strongest terms, the verbal assaults and death threats unleashed on the leader of our Israeli movement."

"Your silence in the face of this mounting intimidation and violence against our leaders is tantamount to your tacit approval," they wrote. "We insist that you come out and publicly issue a statement condemning the violence and intimidation used by the ultra-Orthodox community to suppress our right to worship as Jews at our religion’s holiest sites."

Women of the Wall activists are usually accompanied at their monthly service by male supporters from the Conservative and Reform movements.

Responding to the decision to prosecute the teen, Hess said: “I want to compliment the Jerusalem police on the swift completion of their investigation into the death threats, their diligence and the decision to prosecute. But this suspect is just the tip of the iceberg. His rabbis, in order to bring him to the point where he threatened us, must have explained to him why halakhically we deserve to be killed, and they are the ones who should be prosecuted.”

Incitement against the non-Orthodox movements in Israel, he said, has reached dangerous proportions. “I call on the attorney general to instruct police to carry out an immediate investigation against inciters who might, heaven forbid, lead the next person not only to issue threats, but also, to carry them out.”

Hoffman called the decision to prosecute the teen a test case of the rule of law in Israel. “If he gets convicted, it will show him and many others that that the laws of this land are also enforced at the Western Wall,” she said.

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