The Messiah of Mea She'arim

Yair Nehorai isn't building the Third Temple, but he is making sure extremist Haredim who run afoul of the law get a fair shake in court.

On a Monday at the beginning of this month attorney Yair Nehorai was called urgently to Ben-Gurion International Airport in order to extricate a family belonging to an extreme ultra-Orthodox sect from a legal tangle.

Nehorai did not know the family, which is part of a Beit Shemesh group nicknamed the "Taliban cult" for the females' full-body coverings. But on his way to the airport, he was struck by a familiar feeling.

Two years ago he represented the husband of one of the leaders of the group, known in the press as "the Taliban mother," when they were accused of severely abusing their children. Nahorai got him off in the end with only six months imprisonment.

Over time, Nehorai developed a friendly relationship with H., one of the couple's children and he recently wrote a book in the wake of his encounter with the boy, "Vtehiyeh Li Ima Keveri," (And my mother would have been my grave).

Nehorai is a criminal lawyer who in recent years has frequently appeared in the courts representing members of the most extreme ultra-Orthodox groups: from the separatist Eda Haredit to the fanatic Sikarikim to the Lev Tahor community - the Taliban cult centered in Beit Shemesh.

Nehorai also represents those who see themselves as successors to Rabbi Amram Blau - both people from the Eda Haredit and people from Naturei Karta, who split from the Eda.

Of late Nehorai has had his hands full of work in wake of the Jerusalem Police efforts to restrain the Sikarikim, who use threats and violent tactics to "cleanse" Jerusalem. The police have carried out several arrests and are carrying out intensive investigations into violence, tax evasion and extortion or protection money.

Many in Mea She'arim have anointed Nehorai with the title "redeemer of prisoners," a status that fills him with pride. In recent years, he says, he has represented at least 300 ultra-Orthodox clients who were arrested in demonstrations against desecration of Shabbat at the Carta parking lot and the Intel plant in Jerusalem, at demonstrations of support of the mother accused of starving her child and in other cases.

He attributes Jewish wisdom to the leaders of the community and says that one of the factors in his success in releasing detainees is the ultra-Orthodox leadership's understanding of the world of law.

"They understand what justice is," he says, "what evidence is, how a courtroom looks and what can be expected from a court. If former President Moshe Katsav had bothered to consult with Naturei Karta, one can assume he would have accepted the first plea bargain he was offered."

Nehorai says he is able to defend his clients, even when they are accused of child abuse and sexual offenses, because of "their caring and integrity."

"Their word is their word," he says. "I know too that in most cases if they did something wrong, even if it was severe, they did it not out of evil but in fact the opposite. Many times they will come to the police and explain what happened without knowing what was done there. ... Their outlook is about community and family and I appreciate that. What do they gain by putting someone in prison with criminals?"