Photo: Hagai Aharon
Rabbi Gafni. Fled the country
Photo: Hagai Aharon
Photo: Niv Kalderon
Bayit Chadash center in Jaffa
Photo: Niv Kalderon
Photo: Ahiya Raved
Attorney Olman. 'Police disregarded complaint'
Photo: Ahiya Raved

Rabbi Gafni accused of sexual assault

Three women file complaint with Haifa police against modern-Orthodox rabbi, claiming he sexually harassed them during Torah lessons, promised to marry them; Gafni meanwhile flees country to US

Three young women in their twenties who reside in the heart of Israel filed a complaint several days ago with Haifa police against Rabbi Mordechai Gafni, claiming he sexually harassed them during Torah lessons conducted at his Jaffa center.


The women's attorney, Tami Olman, told Ynet that the police did not take the allegations seriously, allowing the rabbi to meanwhile leave the country.

Rabbi Gafni (Photo: Hagai Aharon)


Haifa police officials admitted they have collected the complainants' testimonies, in which they claim the rabbi promised each of them separately he would marry her if she had sex with him. Some of the women were Gafni's students.


According to Attorney Olman, the complainants accused Gafni of rape, sexual harassment and indecent assault and notified police that once the rabbi learns of the complaint against him he is likely to try to flee the country. However, Olman said, no measures have been taken to prevent Gafni's departure.


To make matters worse, Olman said that once in the United States, Rabbi Gafni sent a letter addressed to his congregation in which he apologized to its members for what he had done.


Attorney: Police failed in handling case


In a letter Attorney Olman sent to the officer in charge of the investigation, she stated: "It is curious that the suspect, whom you said there was no hurry to interrogate, confessed to the allegations against him in a letter from the United States, after he fled the Israel Police's 'effective investigation'… the manner in which this affair has been handled does no honor to the police, to say the least."


Olman also said she intends to demand that an investigation be launched against the relevant elements at the Haifa police who neglected the treatment of the complaint.


Chief superintendent of the Haifa police Ahuva Tomer told Ynet in response that although the complaint itself was not filed with the Haifa police, officers at the station were willing to make an exception and collect the testimonies in Haifa, in order to save the women the trip to Tel Aviv.


Rabbi Gafni, 44, was born in the US and educated at Modern-Orthodox yeshivas. He made aliya to Israel 12 years ago and served as rabbi of the West Bank settlements of Tzofim. Over five years ago he opened the Bayit Chadash spiritual center in Jaffa, where he resided, teaches Torah and ordinates to the rabbinate.


Gafni, who studies and teaches Kabbalah, published several books, hosted his own television show on channel 10 and wrote a weekly column for Ynet.


Avi Cohen contributed to the report.


פרסום ראשון: 05.18.06, 18:40
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