A hero’s welcome?

The saga that gripped the country ended when the final suspects were released among the 12 Israeli teenagers held in Cyprus for the alleged gang rape of a British tourist.

July 30, 2019 12:10
3 minute read.
Israeli tourists, arrested over the alleged rape of a British tourist in the resort town of Ayia Nap

Israeli tourists, arrested over the alleged rape of a British tourist in the resort town of Ayia Napa, arrive to appear before a magistrate for a remand hearing in the Famagusta courthouse in Paralimni, Cyprus. (photo credit: REUTERS/YIANNIS KOURTOGLOU)

The saga that gripped the country over the last 10 days ended Sunday when the final suspects were released among the 12 Israeli teenagers held in Cyprus for the alleged gang rape of a British tourist.

The 19-year-old British woman filed a police complaint a week and a half ago against the teens, ranging in age from 15 to 18, who were staying in the southeastern resort town of Ayia Napa, a popular destination for young Israelis during the summer break in their high school education or before their induction into the IDF.

In her complaint, the woman told the police that two of the suspects held her down by the arms and that their friends then raped and beat her.

During the week, as the suspects were remanded and held in a Cyprus jail cell awaiting the results of DNA tests, reports leaked out that the events surrounding the attack were not as they appeared.

Some of the Israelis admitted being present and having consensual sex with the woman, and there were additional reports that some of the proceedings had been videotaped. Parents of the youth and their lawyers proclaimed their innocence and accused the Cypriot authorities and the media of a witch hunt.

It was clear that the case against the Israelis was falling apart when, late last week, five of the Israeli suspects were released. On Sunday, the remainder went free, after the British woman confessed to police that she had made up the story about the rape.

According to Channel 12, when confronted with DNA evidence that she had sexual relations with three other Israelis who were not arrested as part of the investigation, the woman burst into tears and admitted that she had consensual relations with the those men on the night of the alleged rape.

According to the report, she initially had filed the complaint because she felt humiliated after one of the boys kicked her out of his hotel room.

“I went down from the room and met two of my friends. I told them what had happened and they immediately told me to file a complaint with police,” she was quoted as saying.

News of the case’s closure brought a flood of relief to the frantic parents of the teens. “I felt as if my child was being hung up in the public square before he was even allowed to speak,” one told Army Radio.

One of the freed suspects said to reporters that “the truth has been revealed” and, speaking of his accuser, that “God will punish her.”

Evoking the Lord’s name seemed to be a frequent reaction among the youth and their families as they returned to Israel in various stages on Sunday. The father of one of the youths told the press that, “this is an apparent act of God.”

Spontaneous celebrations broke out at Ben-Gurion Airport with dancing, bottles of champagne opened, choruses of “Am Yisrael Chai” and “Our father in heaven, how good is God,” as well as chants of “the Brit is a whore.”

It was like a hero’s welcome – except that there aren’t any heroes in this sordid affair, just some morally ambiguous Israeli teenagers who went abroad to drink and maybe search for sex. There’s nothing new in that, but the cavalier attitude expressed by the teens and their families should be disturbing for us all.

While they should indeed feel gratitude and joy at the charges being dropped and their return home, there’s nothing in their boorish behavior that warrants a celebration.

Instead, there should be remorse and reflection over the depths to which Israeli society has plummeted, where it’s seen as perfectly normal behavior –  spurred by this alarming era of widespread, easy-access online pornography – for several friends to share a sexual partner, film the proceedings and then share the videos with others.

As Dr. Yaron Schwartz of the Hartman Institute’s Charles E. Smith Experimental Religious High School for Boys in Jerusalem told The Jerusalem Post last week, “I think in Israel, boys will do everything to be masculine… you give up all of your morals for it.”

While we join in welcoming the return of the wrongly-accused Israelis, it seems apparent that a new kind of model for positive sexual behavior needs to be taught and standards need to be changed. Until then, there’s no reason to embrace them or their misguided ways as anything close to heroic.

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