The attorney who defends violent extremist haredim who beat, extort, steal and bully Jews they oppose is a hero in Mea Shearim. "Their word is their word," the attorney says about these criminals. "I know too that in most cases if they did something wrong, even if it was severe, they did it not out of evil but in fact the opposite.…What do [the courts] gain by putting someone [like this] in prison with criminals?"
Avraham Hirschman, one of Nehorai's clients, lying in the street after being beaten by a rival haredi gang yesterday. Nehorai's work allowed Hirschman – who allegedly had committed many violent acts – to remain free, and some of his victims took the law into their own hands as a result.
The messiah of Mea She'arim
Yair Nehorai isn't building the Third Temple, but he is making sure extremist Haredim who run afoul of the law get a fair shake in court.
By Yair Ettinger and Oz Rosenberg • Ha’aretz
On a Monday at the beginning of this month attorney Yair Nehorai was called urgently to Ben-Gurion International Airport in order to extricate a family belonging to an extreme ultra-Orthodox sect from a legal tangle.
Nehorai did not know the family, which is part of a Beit Shemesh group nicknamed the "Taliban cult" for the females' full-body coverings. But on his way to the airport, he was struck by a familiar feeling.
Two years ago he represented the husband of one of the leaders of the group, known in the press as "the Taliban mother," when they were accused of severely abusing their children. Nahorai got him off in the end with only six months imprisonment.
Over time, Nehorai developed a friendly relationship with H., one of the couple's children and he recently wrote a book in the wake of his encounter with the boy, "Vtehiyeh Li Ima Keveri," (And my mother would have been my grave).
Nehorai is a criminal lawyer who in recent years has frequently appeared in the courts representing members of the most extreme ultra-Orthodox groups: from the separatist Eda Haredit to the fanatic Sikarikim to the Lev Tahor community - the Taliban cult centered in Beit Shemesh.
Nehorai also represents those who see themselves as successors to Rabbi Amram Blau - both people from the Eda Haredit and people from Naturei Karta, who split from the Eda.
Of late Nehorai has had his hands full of work in wake of the Jerusalem Police efforts to restrain the Sikarikim, who use threats and violent tactics to "cleanse" Jerusalem. The police have carried out several arrests and are carrying out intensive investigations into violence, tax evasion and extortion or protection money.
Many in Mea She'arim have anointed Nehorai with the title "redeemer of prisoners," a status that fills him with pride. In recent years, he says, he has represented at least 300 ultra-Orthodox clients who were arrested in demonstrations against desecration of Shabbat at the Carta parking lot and the Intel plant in Jerusalem, at demonstrations of support of the mother accused of starving her child and in other cases.
He attributes Jewish wisdom to the leaders of the community and says that one of the factors in his success in releasing detainees is the ultra-Orthodox leadership's understanding of the world of law.
"They understand what justice is," he says, "what evidence is, how a courtroom looks and what can be expected from a court. If former President Moshe Katsav had bothered to consult with Naturei Karta, one can assume he would have accepted the first plea bargain he was offered."
Nehorai says he is able to defend his clients, even when they are accused of child abuse and sexual offenses, because of "their caring and integrity."
"Their word is their word," he says. "I know too that in most cases if they did something wrong, even if it was severe, they did it not out of evil but in fact the opposite. Many times they will come to the police and explain what happened without knowing what was done there. ... Their outlook is about community and family and I appreciate that. What do they gain by putting someone in prison with criminals?"
Notice the logical fallacy in Nehorai's argument.
The intent to harm, the damage done to victims and to society doesn't come into play.
Instead, he argues that since these criminal thugs allegedly mean well (as if anyone can really know what is in another person's heart), they shouldn't be punished for their crimes.
The original Sicarii meant well, too. They acted out of what they considered to be a pure motive – protecting the Jewishness of the Judean state in the first century CE. But they murdered hundreds of Jewish opponents and helped bring the war the ended with the destruction of the Jeruslame Temple and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Jews.
Put another way, Hamas also "means well." So did Hitler. It's just that what they considered to be good, fair and just we – correctly – consider to be evil.
The law and halakha generally do not take a person's intent into consideration. Instead, both legal systems judge based on the act(s) a person is found to have committed.
So for example, if you oppose pornography and burn down an x-rated bookstore as a result, your "noble" intent does not matter.
Because the rule of law is what guarantees the existence of civil society, and the minute that law is applied to different people based on their political or religious views or the intent of their actions, civil society crumbles.
Nehorai is advocating for special lenient treatment for religious zealots who commit heinous crimes.
His actions lead to more violence and more crime – and more victims.
For a lawyer to argue that the facts do not support a conviction or that police violated a suspects rights is understandable and correct.
For a lawyer to argue for a lenient sentence because of extenuation circumstance like a critically ill family member of the criminal or when a criminal shows a high degree of remorse is certainly correct.
But to argue that and entire class of criminal should be treated leniently because they are religious zealots, not 'real' criminals, is not only offensive but it is contrary to the legal systems these criminals supposedly live under.
Pictured above is Avraham Hirschman, one of Nehorai's clients, lying in the street after being beaten by a rival haredi gang yesterday. Nehorai's work allowed Hirschman – who allegedly had committed many violent acts – to remain free, and some of his victims took the law into their own hands as a result.
Civil society should have jailed Hirschman years ago, but it didn't do so, in part because of Nehorai.
So what Israel got is lawlessness and gang violence and a destruction of civil society.
People hate lawyers for many good reasons. The disgraceful Yair Nehorai is one of them.