“Some of the rabbinical courts in the city are no different than the crime families, and I am referring to Rabbi Ifergan being among them. According to Forbes, he has 90 million NIS in the bank. All of his earnings are black money. He travels around in luxury vehicles as does his wife. Let him explain to tax authorities how he earned this all."
The Sopranos, Sefardi Israeli And Haredi Rabbi Style
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Recent news from Netivot, the small, heavily Sefardi southern Israeli town reads a lot like a script from the Sopranos.
The Saturday night arrest of the town’s alleged Mob boss, Shalom Domrani, and the arrest the next day of a leading Sefardi haredi town rabbi, Yoram Abergel, continues to shock Israel.
The seemingly mismatched pair allegedly conspired to throw the recent municipal election to their favored candidate, incumbent Mayor Yehiel Zohar, by in part forcing another prominent Sefardi haredi rabbi living in Netivot, the so-called X-Ray Rabbi, Yaakov Ifergan, to drop his endorsement of the opposing candidate. When normal threats and coercion failed, Abergel allegedly asked Domrani to murder Ifergan’s assistant – or, it now seems, Ifergan himself.
Both Ifergan and Abergel are among the top ten richest rabbis in in Israel with net worths estimated in the tens of millions of shekels each.
Ifergan reportedly denies he was threatened.
Abergel hasn't yet been heard from publicly since his arrest because he was ordered remanded through at least Wednesday morning and is still in jail.
Police reportedly say that Domrani and a group of his henchmen arrived at Ifergan’s office on election day. They closed the office door, cut the phone lines, and seized all mobile phones. The mobsters then ordered Ifergan and his assistants to vote for incumbent Mayor Yehiel Zohar and not for Zohar’s opponent, Eyal Mesika.
Ifergan claims the mobsters did show up on election day, but they came requesting blessings. Domrani did not even mention the election, Ifregan reportedly claims.
Police believe Ifergan is afraid for his own safety and the safety of his family and close followers.
Abergel, who backed Zohar’s reelection, was arrested as he was about to board a plane to China where he was reportedly planning on visiting a Chabad House.
Abergel started a Sefardi neo-hasidic group based on the teachings of the Chabad and Breslov hasidic movements.
Both Zohar, who won the election, and Mesika the challenger both were reportedly angered by what allegedly took place. Each denied any personal knowledge of the alleged crimes, however, and each – predictably – blamed different rabbis for what allegedly happened.
Zohar attacked Ifergan.
“Some of the rabbinical courts in the city are no different than the crime families, and I am referring to Rabbi Ifergan being among them. According to Forbes, he has 90 million NIS in the bank. All of his earnings are black money. He travels around in luxury vehicles as does his wife. Let him explain to tax authorities how he earned this all.
“He has serious building violations including his home. He was given opportunity to submit the plans and he filed in part. He will be required to pay but he is still in violation of the law” Zohar said, adding that Ifergan’s institutions have similar code violations.
Asked why he has not issued a demolition order, Zohar reportedly answered, “I don’t issue demolition orders for an old building. It is not my job. This is the job of the city’s attorney general, not me.”
Zohar denied having a connection to Rabbi Abergel and claimed he had not had contact with him at all in recent years.
Police appear to suspect that Zohar may be, to borrow an American phrase, all mobbed up.
Zohar’s opponent Eyal Mesika denied rabbis played a decisive role in the outcome of the elections and claimed that he did not sense any criminal involvement in the election.
“[However,] it could be police know something that I do not know,” Mesika added.
Two men close to Bnei-Brak-based mainstream Ashkenazi haredi leader Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky – Yeshayahu Epstein and Yaakov Kanievsky – were reportedly questioned by police earlier this week after police learned that Zohar met with Kanievsky before the election and received his blessing.
The mainstream Ashkenazi haredi Degel Hatorah Party backed Zohar’s reelection bid.