If two men accused of sexual molestation and sodomy against minors were living freely in your neighborhood for three months without any court restrictions, you might be justifiably concerned.
If the presiding judge had stated that, after the initial police investigation the evidence against one of the suspects was “of considerable strength” and a written admission of guilt by the other suspect had been submitted to the police, the ongoing freedom of the accused might be more worrisome still.
And if there were at least seven complainants against the two suspects, the confusion, disquiet, and anger of the families of the alleged victims might be well understandable.
Yet this is the current situation of two ultra-Orthodox men who were arrested almost four months ago and investigated by the police on suspicion of sexual abusing teenage boys in Jerusalem’s Mea She’arim neighborhood.
Since their release from jail at the end of August, the suspects have been living in Mea She’arim without police or court restrictions.
During 2016, and for a period of at least six months, it appears that the two suspects, age 27 and 23, routinely had boys as young as 13 over to their apartments in the haredi neighborhood and allegedly engaged in various sex acts, including sodomy, with their victims.
Evidence also exists that the two men paid the boys to perform these acts.
According to a source in the State Attorney’s Office, there are at least seven complainants against the two men, and it is possible that other victims have yet to come forward.
One complainant, currently 15, has two recorded phone conversations with one of the suspects, heard by The Jerusalem Post, in which he admits to having convinced the complainant to perform sexual acts with him, and to having paid him for such acts.
The complainant, Haim (not his real name), also has a WhatsApp message from the same suspect, seen by the Post, in which the suspect admits that he performed sexual acts with the complainant.
Both men were arrested in August, and were released after several days in prison to house arrest. However, the house arrest term expired at the end of August, and neither man has since been under any police or court restrictions.
The State Attorney’s Office declined to answer why four months since the two were arrested, and with so many complainants and other evidence, indictments have not yet been handed down or the case closed.
The State Attorney’s Office said merely that the case involving the two suspects had been investigated by the police, and the findings and evidence passed to the Jerusalem district office last week, with a decision still pending.
Haim is a 15-year-old boy currently living in Jerusalem with his parents and seven siblings.
The family was until recently part of a strict, hassidic community, but following the abuse of their son have left the haredi community, but remain religious.
After being sexually abused in a haredi yeshiva boarding-school outside Jerusalem, his parents removed him from the school and brought him back to live with them in one of the haredi neighborhoods of the capital.
The yeshiva dean has since been convicted of sexual abuse against his pupils, and is currently serving a 12-month prison sentence after being convicted of indecent assault against a minor.
The school itself was closed earlier this year.
According to his father, Haim was abused at the school by other members of the staff and has suffered psychologically from his experience.
He is also confused about sex and his own sexuality, is aggressive, and has been violent toward members of the family, including his mother as a result of his experiences.
While he was back in Jerusalem, a former schoolmate of Haim’s got in touch with him and introduced him to the two suspects. Together they visited the apartment of one of the suspects, who convinced Haim to perform sexual acts with him.
Haim visited the homes of the two suspects, who live close to each other in Mea She’arim, on several occasions between February and August, during which time the alleged incidents occurred.
In one of the recorded phone conversations in which Haim was trying to get one of the suspects to admit to what he had done, the suspect admits to having initiated the sexual activity, to having convinced Haim to do it, and to having paid Haim for these sex acts.
In a WhatsApp message sent by the suspect to Haim, the former writes, “I began with you when my wife was in the Eitanim Hospital [Kfar Shaul Mental Health Center]. This broke me completely. You came to my house with David, we spoke and we had laughs, and then we began to do sexual nonsense with you, and then I continued with you; until a week ago I did sexual nonsense with you. I am really sorry, I want to begin my new life and to leave [behind] everything. I really apologize, and I didn’t know how old you were.”
Speaking to the Post, Haim’s father said that the entire episode had put severe strain on the family and caused great anguish for himself and his wife.
Haim’s mother had what he described as a nervous breakdown, and was hospitalized on two occasions for almost three weeks. His wife is in therapy, as are some of the other children in the family and Haim himself.
“The whole house just got turned upside down,” he said. “My wife is a mother of eight children, and she can’t cope. She’s gone from being a very high-functioning person to a low-functioning person.
“My son is messed up. He’s very angry, he’s confused, and he’s in major therapy right now.
He’s not calm, he’s very edgy, he’s not trusting and he’s having a difficult time in school. He’s hard to be around, any little thing sets him off; it’s really hard.”
For his father, the suffering caused to Haim and his family is made worse by the fact that the men who allegedly abused his son are living without restrictions and are yet to be indicted.
One one occasion, he and Haim were driving through Mea She’arim and actually spotted one of the suspects walking into a synagogue.
Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.