An influential rabbi, convicted of sexually assaulting three sisters, aged eight, 12 and 14, at his synagogue in southern Israel over the past several years, was sentenced Thursday to four years in prison. The court ruled that he had “used his position” to commit the acts.
The girls’ family used to regularly see 70-year-old Rabbi Yehuda Ben David, a well-known religious and spiritual leader in the southern cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon, for advice on religious, financial and medical matters. Be’er Sheva District Court Judge Yoel Eden said he had taken advantage of the family’s “dependence on him.”
Ben David has denied any wrongdoing and requested the court to order the verdict be put under gag order, but his request was denied. In addition to jail time, he was also given one year on probation and ordered to pay 150,000 shekels ($43,000) in damages to the three girls.
Judge Eden said the three accusers, who prosecutors say didn’t know at the time all had been assaulted by Ben David, testified before the court. He also cites a review by the social services, which attests to what the judge called “substantial damage” to the girls in many areas of life as a result of the acts.
In 1997, Rabbi Ben David was convicted of indecent assault, but was only sentenced to five months of community service.