Prominent Golan Heights Rabbi Accused of Attempting to Kill Man He Says Raped His Daughter

Four men involved in the altercation were carrying legal firearms, and police said traces of explosive material were found on the rabbi's hands.

A prominent Golan Heights rabbi and his son-in-law were arrested yesterday on suspicion of trying to kill a man they say raped the rabbi's daughter.

The man, who police say shot the rabbi's son in a late-night fight with the rabbi's family, was also arrested. The Nazareth Magistrate's Court extended the remand of the rabbi, his son-in-law and the alleged rapist by five days yesterday.

Police said the rabbi, 61, and two family members - his son, a 30-year-old teacher, and his son-in-law, 24 - asked the man to meet them at an intersection near their town shortly after midnight Saturday.

The four got into an argument and the man accused of rape allegedly shot the rabbi's son, who sustained serious injuries to his stomach. One of the members of the rabbi's family returned fire, police said, shooting the man in the leg.

All four men involved in the altercation were carrying legal firearms, and police said traces of explosive material were found on the rabbi's hands.

"The investigation is only in its infancy," Judge Saaib Dabour said at yesterday's remand hearing. "But there is no doubt we are talking about serious offenses."

The rabbi and both family members involved in the fight were also carrying clubs, and two of the men had their faces covered, police said.

Attorneys for the rabbi and his son-in-law said they had not brought the clubs with them, but had picked them up from the road only after they came under attack.

The rabbi's son was admitted to Poriya Hospital in Tiberias, where his condition stabilized following surgery. The other man, who sustained light to moderate injuries, was treated at Rebecca Sieff Hospital in Safed.

The rabbi "has no explanation for what happened," his lawyer said. "He didn't plan it. Things got out of hand, and what happened happened."

The attorney for the rabbi's son-in-law said family members were only seeking to keep the rape suspect away from the rabbi's daughter.

"There was no intent to harm him," the lawyer said. "He was the one who created a situation that put him on the defensive. When someone produces a weapon, things snowball. The man who shot the rabbi's son is the one who took out a weapon and fired first."

That man's attorney said he denies all allegations of rape, and that he fired only in self-defense.

"He was forced to shoot after he was attacked and felt his life was in danger," she said.

Residents of the community where the rabbi and his family live appeared yesterday to be in shock at the allegations. Most, however, heeded local authorities' instructions and said little or nothing to the media.

"When I heard about the incident I felt as if someone had hit me on the head with a hammer," a municipal official said. "The rabbi is a figure of great stature. He is a ba'al teshuva [a Jew who has become religious] who walked a very long road to become an outstanding educator and an example to the community. He and his family are good-hearted people who host guests, contribute to the community and to charity, and it pains me the way things got out of control."