Rabbi Metzger – will he resign?
Photo: Government Press Office

Mazuz: Chief rabbi lied, should quit

Scathing report: Attorney general slams Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Metzger, says he lied during investigation into hotel stay in Jerusalem free of charge; Mazuz decides not to indict rabbi but recommends that he resign his post

Unprecedented decision: Attorney General Menachem Mazuz ruled Monday not to indict Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger, but recommended that Metzger quit his post.


The recommendation follows an investigation into the rabbi's stay at a Jerusalem hotel free of charge.


Should the chief rabbi refuse to quit, Mazuz recommends that a procedure be initiated to remove Metzger from his post


In his report, Mazuz accuses Metzger of lying, among other things.


Although Mazuz decided not to indict the rabbi, the attorney general's report includes a scathing attack on Metzger's conduct and notes many of the versions provided by the rabbi raise doubts.


"Rabbi Metzger's versions provided during his questioning, in addition to responses issued on his behalf after the affair's publication, are filled with oddities, version changes, the laying of blame on his subordinates, and at times even an avoidance of telling the truth," Mazuz wrote.


"Many question marks remain, some minor and others more serious," a senior Justice Ministry official added. "We cannot establish a probable possibility for conviction, and therefore we closed it (the file.) But it's a borderline case."


The attorney general and his senior assistant formulated a document relating to three separate affairs that led to the recommendation that the rabbi quit his post. The first affair related to the Shavuot holiday three years ago, where the rabbi stayed at a Jerusalem hotel, but payment for the room where three of his children stayed was funded by a synagogue foundation that invited Metzger to deliver a lecture.


'Rabbi evaded responsibility'


The second suspicion pertained to Metzger and his family's stay at the Ramada Renaissance Hotel in Jerusalem, when at the same time the State paid for an apartment rented especially for the chief rabbi and his family in town. The third affair related to a stay at the luxurious David Citadel Hotel in the capital, while Metzger had an apartment in the city. In addition, investigators tried to understand why Metzger paid so little for his accommodation at the hotel.


In his report, the attorney general described Metzger's actions as "behavioral patterns that repeat themselves, such as disrespect for public funds, accepting illegal perks, not telling the truth, and evading responsibility by passing it on to his subordinates."


Rabbi Meir Rosenthal, Metzger's assistant whom the chief rabbi told investigators was responsible for his actions, did confirm he was in charge of Metzger's visits at the hotels. However, Mazuz wrote that "it is indeed difficult to refute the version according to which a senior official does not usually deal with sorting the details having to do with his hotel stays… nevertheless, the question arises as to what extent can such a man… act as if he's surrounded by a bubble."


The attorney general described Metzger's statements and behavior throughout the investigation as "miserable," and despite the decision to close the criminal file, he wrote: "The picture painted by the facts is serious. Rabbi Metzger's conduct in the affairs that have been probed, as in his interrogation – in which he more than once evaded providing complete answers or telling the truth – undermines the norms expected from him as Israel's chief rabbi and a rabbinical judge at the High Rabbinical Court."


Excuses: Flat not Kosher; no toothbrush


For example, concerning the fact that he checked in at a prestigious Jerusalem hotel despite the fact that a flat had been rented for him in the capital, Metzger said the flat “needs to be renovated in a certain manner.” The investigation revealed the renovation was done at a later time. Metzger also spoke of “maybe cleanliness reasons” and that he had no toothbrush, towel or bedclothes in the apartment.


Referring to Passover two years ago, the rabbi said his landlord told him he was returning to Israel, but three week before the holiday canceled their trip back to Israel. Despite this, Metzger checked in at the most prestigious hotel, with the government paying for both the hotel bill and his Jerusalem apartment. The reason given by Metzger this time: He did not have enough time to ensure the apartment is Kosher for Passover.


The Attorney General said three weeks are more then enough to make an apartment Kosher. On another note, despite Metzger's explanation, he welcomed guests in that apartment over the holiday.


According to Mazuz, Metzger’s behavior raises “many questions about his suitability to fill the esteemed post.” Mazuz added: “I think that rabbi Metzger has to take responsibility for his actions and draw personal conclusions. And should he fail to do so, the Justice Minister has to weigh taking action and bringing his case before a committee of rabbinical judges to rule on the continuation of his term.”


Senior officials said Monday Mazuz expects Metzger to resign as soon as possible, and should he fail to do so, they will ask Justice Minister Tzipi Livni to take action against him.


“We ask not to be forced to reach this point. It is neither respectable for Rabbi Metzger, nor for the Chief Rabbinate and no one else.”


The scandal was surfaced in a Channel 2 in November of 2004, when the broadcaster reported on the wrongdoings of the rabbi during the Passover holiday of the same year. In April of that year, he and his family stayed at the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem, where he was asked to pay a small fraction of the bill. Although he agreed to pay part of the bill, Metzger has refused to pay the rest of the bill.


After the publication of the scandal, the Attorney General’s office consulted a number of relevant officials and the State Prosecution conducted an initial investigation which led to the formulation of an opinion on the matter. State Prosecutor Eran Shander held discussions during which evidence collected on the affair was checked.


The attorney general ordered the police to launch an initial investigation into the affair. Mazuz demanded that the findings be passed on to him when the rabbi is invited for interrogation.


פרסום ראשון: 04.03.06, 17:11
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