Boyfriend says he was beaten for dating daughter of chief rabbi

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The Independent Online

The wife, daughter and son of Israel's Sephardi chief rabbi, Shlomo Amar, have been arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and beating a young man - from their own ultra-Orthodox community - who was dating the rabbi's 18-year-old daughter without his permission.

The wife, daughter and son of Israel's Sephardi chief rabbi, Shlomo Amar, have been arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and beating a young man - from their own ultra-Orthodox community - who was dating the rabbi's 18-year-old daughter without his permission.

"It has all the ingredients of a juicy soap opera," the mass-circulation Yediot Aharonot said yesterday. "Forbidden love between a young man and a woman, a kidnapping in the middle of the night to an Arab village, a black sheep who set out to save the honour of his family, and lots of violence."

On Friday, a magistrate remanded the son, Meir, 31, in custody after he admitted the offence. He had abandoned the religious lifestyle as a youth and maintained little contact with his family since. Two Israeli Arabs said to have been his accomplices were also held. The rabbi's wife, Mazal, and daughter, Ayala, are under house arrest.

Police are expected to question Rabbi Amar tomorrow when he returns from a conference in Thailand. He has made an official denial of involvement, or knowledge of the incident, expressed his regret and said he will co-operate with police. The young man, identified only as "D", claimed he was also attacked in the rabbi's Jerusalem home.

Israel's chief rabbis - one for the Sephardi or eastern Jews, the other Ashkenazi for those of European origin - are elected public officials. They supervise religious services and courts, but have limited moral authority. People tend to follow their local rabbis.

In the closed, black-hatted society of the ultra-Orthodox, where boys and girls attend separate schools and marriages are arranged by parents, teenage girls hardly ever meet boys outside their family. When a match is proposed, couples may meet for coffee in a hotel lobby - privately in public - to check each other out. Rabbis' children usually marry other rabbis' children. Dynasty is all.

Computers are discouraged, except for professional purposes, but Ayala Amar surfed the internet and found her beau in a chat-room. Chat turned to romance, they started to meet and fell in love.

Rabbi Amar and his wife ordered her to stop seeing him. Meir, the secular brother, is said to have told her not to behave like a yuppie girl from fashionable north Tel-Aviv. Members of the family also spoke to the young man. But the trysts continued for three months.

Police say that two weeks ago Meir ordered his sister to come with him at night to Bnei Brak, the boyfriend's predominantly religious home town near Tel-Aviv. Once there, she phoned and asked him to meet.

The young man is said to have told investigators that Meir forced him into the car at knifepoint and threatened to stab him if he screamed or tried to escape. Meir is alleged to have driven him to the home of Arab friends in the village of Kalansua, pummelling him all the way.

The beating, the 17-year-old suitor claimed, continued for four hours in the Arabs' house. He testified that Meir sliced off his side locks and cut up his skullcap. Police say Ayala stayed outside in the car throughout her boyfriend's ordeal.

The victim said Meir then drove him to the rabbi's official residence in Jerusalem, where he was beaten again while the rabbi and his wife were sleeping in another room. Eventually, he said, Meir gave him 20 shekels (about £2.50) and told him to make his own way home.

When he went to a Tel-Aviv hospital for treatment, the doctors called in the police. In soap-opera tradition, the young man says he loves Ayala and would still like to marry her.

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