Jerusalem Rabbi Arrested on Suspicion of Raping High School Student

Rabbi’s lawyer says plaintiff, who is due to marry soon, might be trying to explain to her future husband why she is not a virgin.

Illustration: A man in handcuffs.
Eyal Varshavsky

Jerusalem police arrested a 60-year-old local rabbi on Wednesday on suspicion of raping a 14-year-old student several years ago at the ulpana (religious girls’ high school) in which he taught. His remand was extended until next Wednesday.

The woman, now aged 20, filed a complaint with the police a few days ago. She claimed that the suspect, Rabbi David Harrison, committed various sexual crimes against her, including rape, when she was 14. Harrison was arrested following a police investigation, during which they questioned the woman’s family and people from the school.

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court extended his remand until next Wednesday, with the judge rejecting a request by Harrison's attorney that he not be identified publicly.

A police representative testified at the hearing that, “a woman of about 21 filed a lengthy and detailed complaint against the respondent in early December. She said that when she was in ninth grade in the ulpana, the respondent was a rabbi there and started committing sexual acts on her until one time he had intercourse with her. She said this happened to her numerous times, inside the school, under intimidation.”

At one point in the hearing, Harrison's attorney Yehuda Shoshan suggested that the woman had filed the complaint as a way of explaining to her husband why she was not a virgin. He argued that the plaintiff’s claims were not credible, given the structure of the school and its schedule.

“It doesn’t make sense, which is why I asked if she had intercourse with anyone else, because it’s a known thing that when religious women marry young and they’ve already lost their virginity, they find a way to explain this away,” Shoshan said. “If they were to admit that they’d had sex outside of marriage, they would be considered untouchable in their society, so it’s not farfetched to point out that this complaint arose close to the time of the plaintiff’s marriage.”

“My client and I cannot find any other reasonable motive as to why such a woman would file a complaint after so much time,” Shoshan added.

Harrison himself told the court that he hadn't asked for a lawyer because he was sure it was a mistake. "I worked there very part-time," he said. "I don’t even know the girl. There is nothing here. I am busy with my career and have an active life. She said it supposedly happened inside a school crammed with students and teachers, where I did not have a private room. I want a full investigation. I’m ready to take a polygraph.”

The judge accepted the position of the police that there was reasonable suspicion that crimes were committed. “On the basis of the investigative material presented to me, it appears that the respondent, when he was a staff member at the ulpana, did commit the alleged offenses, which are serious sex crimes, against a 14-year-old girl," he said.

"The minor’s emotional state was shaken and her functioning was adversely affected at the time... The complainant has provided very detailed testimony, which has been verified by external factors.”