Ashkenazi School in Netivot Rejects Sons of 'X-ray Rabbi'

Ultra-Orthodox leaders: Rejection not matter of Ashkenazi-Sephardic row, but of internal Haredi conflict.

Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Ifergan, known as the "X-Ray Rabbi" for his supposed ability to diagnose medical ailments, is considering leaving Netivot after the city's Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox school rejected his 6-year-old twin sons.

Tensions between ultra-Orthodox circles in the western Negev city have escalated following last year's municipal elections. Many of the city's leading rabbis - including Isaschar Meir, the head of Hanegev Yeshiva - signed a petition accusing Ifergan of "idol worship." Nearly all of Netivot's top rabbis signed the petition, with the exception of Shas spiritual leader Ovadia Yosef.

"There were a lot of problems when the kids wanted to register for day care, and only after political leaders intervened were they accepted," said an associate of Ifergan. "It seems this is racism or jealousy over the rabbi's power and strength."

Ifergan has contributed thousands of shekels to Ashkenazi-run yeshivas and kollels (yeshivas for married men) in Netivot. But ultra-Orthodox leaders there said Wednesday the school's rejection of the rabbi's sons was a matter not of Ashkenazi-Sephardic disputes, but of internal ultra-Orthodox conflicts.

The predominantly Ashkenazi school that rejected Ifergan's sons has many Sephardic students, they said.

"The X-ray rabbi is unable to leave the city of Netivot. He is connected to it by every thread of his being - he can't leave the city and the many people who support him," said one resident. In the meantime, various ultra-Orthodox groups in the city are trying to get the sons accepted to the school.

For 15 years, Ifergan has run charity organizations in Netivot, distributing food to needy yeshiva students and others. Sources close the rabbi said his charitable work would continue as usual.