Police to Protect Rabbi Behind Alternative Conversion Court

Police begin patrolling near Rabbi David Stav's home, though he says he's received no direct threats after ultra-Orthodox newspaper labels him 'dangerous for Judaism.'

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Tzohar founder Rabbi David Stav.
Tzohar founder Rabbi David Stav.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Yair Ettinger
Yair Ettinger

The Israel Police has decided to provide security for Rabbi David Stav, who heads the Tzohar organization of moderate Zionist rabbis, following threats made against his life. Rabbi Stav is involved in a recent initiative to create an alternative conversion court, which challenges the authority of Israel's Chief Rabbinate.

"They’re not providing me bodyguards," Rabbi Stav told Haaretz on Friday. "The police told me they will patrol around my home, apparently in response to intelligence information. I have not received any threats, only abusive comments."

Rabbi Stav has received a great deal of negative press in the ultra-Orthodox media, and much condemnation from ultra-Orthodox rabbis since the new conversion court was announced. The ultra-Orthodox weekly B'kehila put comments on its front page made by the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef two years ago, when Stav was running for the position of chief Ashkenazi rabbi. "His friends testified to me that this man is dangerous for Judaism, dangerous for the rabbinate, dangerous for the Torah," Rabbi Yosef said of Rabbi Stav then.

Cover of B'kehila, the ultra-Orthodox newspaper condemning Rabbi David Stav.

At a support rally for Israel's Chief Rabbinate that took place in Jerusalem on Thursday, Chief Sephardi Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, and son of the late Rabbi Ovadia, made comments hinting at Stav.

"Some people, and I won't name names, are slandering the courts and the rabbinate, for personal reasons," said Yosef. Rabbi David Yosef, also a son of Ovadia, and a member of Shas council of Torah sages, added, "David Stav and the heads of that movement [Tzohar] are Reform Jews with yarmulkes."   

On Thursday, the religious news website Kipa published an interview with Rabbi Stav, in which he commented on the criticisms leveled against him, and warned against their consequences.

"It's important to understand that incitement has ramifications," said Stav, adding "let no one say later that it was unintentional, that we didn't mean to. You meant to. Incitement is incitement. You want to argue over the issue? That's legitimate, and that is the way of the Torah. But when they say over and over again that someone is dangerous, most likely someone will understand that this person should be harmed."

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