'They steppped on me and kicked me and then I lost consciousness': Argentine rabbi recalls harrowing burglary
'They put me face-down on the floor. I begged them to let me breathe,' says Rabbi Gabriel Davidovich, as he expresses uncertainty that home invasion and brutal assault was anti-Semitic in nature.
Some 150 meters away from the Yeshiva Jofetz Jaim (Chofetz Chaim), in a two-story building on the corner of San Luis and Azcuénaga, lives Rabbi Gabriel Davidovich, the head rabbi of AMIA—the Jewish community's main organization in Argentina. He serves as a prominent member of the organization and as the chief secretary of the rabbinical court.
While he is not Argentina's chief rabbi, and there are more senior Jewish religious officials in the country, Davidovich is nevertheless a well-known and well-respected figure in the community.
The 60-year-old rabbi, a father of seven, went to sleep an hour and a half earlier. What happened next was like a scene from a horror movie.
"I woke up in a fright to the sound of noises from the bathroom adjacent to my bedroom," the rabbi said. "I went to the bathroom, and there I found myself facing a man who came through the bathroom's narrow window, which overlooks the street.
"I tried to fight him. I ran to the entrance of the home, opened the door and yelled 'Help!' At that moment, the rest of the gang came into the house, seven in total. They put me face-down on the floor. I begged them to let me breathe. They covered my head and started stepping on me and kicking me. This is when I lost consciousness."
The next thing the rabbi remembers is waking up at the hospital.
After Davidovich passed out, the assailants moved on to his wife, tied her up and demanded she showed them all of the jewelry in the house. They told her: "We know he's the head rabbi, and that you have a jewelry store. Where's the money?"
While they were at it, they swore at her, but none of the swear words was anti-Semitic in nature. The burglars also did not physically harm her.
The robbers rummaged through all of the closets and took all of the jewelry, and then left the apartment.
Outside the building were two Brazilian tourists who witnessed the robbery and called the police.
The police officers who arrived at the scene found the rabbi lying on the floor. The attackers left him in serious condition with nine fractured ribs, a punctured lung, and injuries to his face and legs. He has since undergone surgery and is now in moderate condition.
Rabbi Davidovich doesn't rule out that the attack could have been anti-Semitic in nature, but still urges to await the results of the police investigation.
"I have no idea who is behind the attack," he said. "I want to thank the people of Israel for the Jewish embrace I received."
In a phone call with President Reuven Rivlin, the rabbi said Tuesday: "When such things happen, it's awful. My wife is afraid to go home. The safety of Jews here is threatened. But we shouldn't stop our work."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also called the rabbi to wish his a speedy recovery.
Aryeh Leib Davidovich, the rabbi's son, said his father "is in pain but out of danger, thank G-d. What we think is that they wanted to steal. They said he was the head rabbi, and that he must have money. But the community thinks it is anti-Semitism, because the rabbi was beaten until he passed out, and they only asked for money from his wife."
The Buenos Aires Police believes the incident may be criminal after all. They believe the assailants had prior intelligence on the house, knowing the bathroom window would be left open. Another possible motive is that the attack was an act of revenge of a husband angry over a ruling of the Buenos Aires Rabbinical Court, of which the rabbi is a member.