September 27, 2023

Calls to investigate old claims against Rabbi Zvi Tau, the spiritual leader of the anti-LGBTQ Noam party, were recently supported by leading Religious Zionism rabbis, including Rabbi Avraham Stav who claims that he personally heard testimonies by two women.

Israel police have decided not to further investigate claims that Rabbi Zvi Tau, spiritual leader of the Noam Party and one of the most prominent Haredi-nationalist rabbis, sexually assaulted women and minors.

Alongside the statute of limitations, which protects individuals from prosecution for acts committed more than 30 years ago, the police also said no evidence could be found for a separate domestic violence complaint the accuser made. These factors would make it difficult for a court to prosecute the allegations against Rabbi Tau, the police concluded.

The claims are scheduled to be reviewed by the state prosecution next week, but may end up being thrown out entirely as a result of the police’s decision.

Tau’s Noam party is a minor faction within Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism party, which has was propelled to Israel’s third-largest party following the elections. The uproar around the allegations against Tau started when Nehama Tana, a mother of five, wrote in a Facebook post in August that Tau had assaulted her sexually when she was a minor. “I know how small the chances are of my voice being heard, but after so many years of being silenced, I choose to raise it,” she wrote.

Tana said she had filed a complaint against Tau with the police and underwent a lie detector test by a large Israeli media outlet. In recent weeks she set up a protest vigil opposite the Knesset together with dozens of other women, calling on the MKs and ministers to listen to her.

The police’s decision also shuts down recent calls to investigate the allegations heard from leading religious-Zionist rabbis. The calls coincided with the party entering coalition negotiations to join Netanyahu’s government. “The Rabbi Tau affair must be looked into,” wrote Rabbi Yuval Cherlow in a Facebook post Wednesday. “We cannot set our position in advance; we must not use an unchecked story for any other agenda; there is no other way than to check the complaints.”

Cherlow wrote that the women who claimed they had been attacked are entitled to be heard and demand recognition of what they say happened. On the other hand, Tau is entitled to the chance of clearing his name.

“I met some of the complainants … and their statements are very sharp and clear,” Cherlow wrote, noting that he hadn’t heard Tau’s side. “There’s no better way than to have the police and other legal bodies deal with these matters.”

Rabbi Avraham Stav wrote in his Twitter account that he personally heard testimonies by two women who said they had been sexually assaulted by Tau, and had heard about other women who had been assaulted.

“I have no intention of passing judgment before things are ascertained and before the rabbi’s response has been heard,” Stav wrote.

“I cannot entirely rule out that this is a terrible series of mistakes and false accusations of an innocent man, without having heard the opposite side. I can say that the overall claims and testimonies sound quite reliable, and create a strong impression that there’s good reason for fear,” wrote Stav.

He stated that even if allegations had been made by only one woman, it would be necessary to check it out. “But such an accumulation of complaints considerably raises the likelihood that there’s something there and makes the investigation and clarification a pressing obligation,” he wrote.

Stav said the issue must be investigated “in professional forums, far from the public eye,” and this is why he hadn’t said anything about it so far. But in recent days a person close to Tau treated the allegations with contempt, saying the first complainant was mentally challenged and that Tau was righteous and not to be doubted. Following this, Stav decided to break his silence.

“This is only part of the silencing efforts being made recently that are delaying the investigation, so I decided not to be silent,” he wrote.

“We must demand even of a rabbi seen as righteous to respond to serious allegations against him, certainly when it’s more than one complainant. A person’s mental condition cannot be used to belittle them or undermine their credibility. Being mentally challenged and being sexually assaulted go together in many cases, regrettably, and for the most part have nothing to do with the testimony’s reliability.

“Only very specific mental illnesses hinder the ability to testify, and this is not the case here. As long as the story continues to occupy us, we must take extra care with the rules of defamation,” he wrote.

Tau hasn’t commented on the new calls for an investigation.

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