Rabbi Elazar Abuhatzeira, 70, was stabbed to death Thursday night in his Beersheba yeshiva, apparently by a man who was unhappy with the rabbi's advice.
Rabbi Abuhatzeira was one of the city's prominent religious figures. He was the grandson of Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzeira, known as the "Baba Sali", leading Moroccan Sephardic rabbi and kabbalist who was renowned for his alleged ability to work miracles through his prayers.
The rabbi will be laid to rest Friday on Jerusalem's Mount of Olives following a funeral procession in Beersheba.
According to an initial investigation, the rabbi received the suspect for a conversation, during which he was stabbed for an unknown reason. The rabbi's students captured the stabber and handed him over to the police.
Scene of crime (Photo: Herzl Yosef)
According to police sources, the suspect – who was granted a private audience – stabbed the rabbi in his upper body, inflicting lethal wounds. The man, identified as Asher Dahan, 42, from the central community of Elad, was said to have been unhappy with the rabbi's advice on marital issues.
The Beersheba Magistrate's Court extended Dahan's remand by 13 days on Friday and ordered him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
The investigation also revealed that the suspect had arrived at the yeshiva to consult the rabbi several times, and therefore was well familiar with the place.
Dahan's lawyer, Attorney Yuval Livadaro of the Public Defender's Office, said after the court session that "the suspect said he hadn't hoped for this result and is very sorry for what happened."
Magen David Adom emergency services were called to the scene and began resuscitation efforts, before rushing the 70-year-old to the Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba.
Unfortunately, doctors had no choice but to pronounce him dead on arrival.
Massive police forces arrived at the scene, including Southern District Police Commander Yossi Pariente.
Rabbi's followers shocked (Photo: Herzl Yosef)
Local residents who frequent the yeshiva gathered at the scene, shocked by the news. "This is just unbelievable, we're all in shock" one of the rabbi's followers told Ynet.
"This was a heinous act against a prominent man in Israel. I just can't believe it," another added.
Israel's Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger responded to the murder by saying, "I believe that such a shocking thing has never happened before."
He added, "We have to ask ourselves how this happened. As a rabbi, I am frightened by the thought of a man arriving to get advice and murdering the rabbi who received him in cold blood."
spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef "cried bitterly" when he heard about Rabbi Abuhatzeira's death, his associates said, adding that he was "shocked and hurting".
"If it were a heart attack or an illness, he could have dealt with it, but cold-blooded murder just can't be accepted," said one of Yosef's aides.
Former Shas spokesman Itzik Sudri, a relative of Rabbi Abuhatzeira, referred to the tragedy as the "Rabin
murder of the religious world".
Interior Minister Eli Yishai of the Shas party arrived at the scene of the murder on Thursday night and visited the rabbi's house. "This is a great loss, a great pain," Yishai said. "We are shocked."
Rabbi Abuhatzeira was the offspring of a dynasty of rabbis. He was considered an expert in the "occult sciences" and Kabbalah. He lived in a house with a tunnel leading to the synagogue, and his followers say he only left the place several times in the past decades for modesty reasons.
Kobi Nahshoni contributed to this report