For the first time since the launch of a campaign of incitement against ultra-Orthodox IDF soldiers, a haredi man was convicted of insulting a public servant when he verbally assaulted a soldier praying in synagogue.
Aharon Korlandeski, 34, a resident of Jerusalem associated with the radical Jerusalem Faction, was accused of insulting an IDF soldier when he shouted at him, called him by a derogatory term and screamed at him to leave the synagogue where he was praying.
The soldier in question, Peretz Margolin, 24, was attending an evening prayer service in a synagogue in the haredi neighborhood of Ezrat Torah in Jerusalem, close to Mea She’arim, and was dressed in his IDF uniform and accompanied by his father.
According to the indictment, when Korlandeski became aware of the soldier’s presence, he began shouting at him: “Hardak, get out of here, remove your kippa, what are you praying here for?” and began calling on others present to also protest against the soldier.
The word hardak is a portmanteau meaning a “simple- minded haredi,” although it also has allusions to the Hebrew word for insect and has been used by haredi extremists as a pejorative insult in a fierce campaign against ultra-Orthodox service in the IDF.
Korlandeski was also charged with physically assaulting the soldier by punching him in the chest and trying to grab the beret on his shoulder.
Due to complications in various testimonies given on the case, including contradictions in separate statements given by Margolin himself, the judge said he could not convict Korlandeski of physical assault and cleared him of these charges.
He did, however, convict him on the charge of insulting a public servant, a crime that can incur a prison sentence of up to six months.
Judge Hagit Mack-Kalmanovitz of the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court said there was no doubt that the word hardak was derogatory, and that by shouting at Margolin to leave simply because he was a soldier in uniform, he had without doubt insulted the soldier.
The judge said the crime of insulting a public servant was not to protect the honor of the victim as an individual, but rather to protect and support the authority of the state and the legitimacy of the operations carried out by public servants.
“The accused testified explicitly that the very presence of a soldier in synagogue is a provocation and complicates prayer [services] and study,” Mack-Kalmanovitz wrote in her decision. “The use he made of the word hardak itself testifies that this was not an event between two private individuals, but rather a war against the phenomenon of hardak-ness and enlistment to the IDF.”
Korlandeski’s actions should therefore not be seen as against Margolin specifically, but against him fulfilling his function as an IDF soldier, the judge wrote.
“Insulting the plaintiff, and the injury done to him, constitutes in practice injury to public service and to the IDF and a challenge to the legal authority of the state and to public service,” Mack-Kalmanovitz wrote.
The campaign of incitement against haredi soldiers and individuals involved in encouraging and promoting enlistment to the IDF began in 2012 and 2013, when legislative efforts to draft haredi men into the army were undertaken by the government.
Extremists associated with the Jerusalem Faction have published offensive and insulting campaign materials, including pamphlets, posters and flyers, frequently making use of the term hardak, while depicting haredi soldiers and recruiters as pigs and in other derogatory ways.
As a result, ultra-Orthodox soldiers are frequently assailed in haredi neighborhoods with cries of hardak and other insults by extremists, and there have been several incidents in which soldiers have been physically assaulted.
Haredi enlistment activists have been critical of the state’s response to these attacks, arguing that the number of people arrested and convicted of such crimes is insufficient, and that the state is not doing enough to prevent this activity.
One of the witnesses in the case against Korlandeski was himself subject to an extremist campaign, including various societal pressures and public notices appearing against him in the haredi neighborhoods of Jerusalem and even threats to his life.
Korlandeski was also convicted of interfering with a police officer conducting his duty in relation to his violent behavior in prison when being investigated.
Korlandeski began to behave abusively to police personnel, calling them “Satan,” “the police of Amalekites” and expressing a wish that the “Islamic State will come and wipe you out.”
He continued to insult police personnel who called on Korlandeski to calm himself, telling them that “Nazis and Amalekites today will not remain alive.”
Korlandeski then got up from his chair and began “going wild,” in the words of the indictment, and shoved one of the police officers into a wall.
The sentencing hearing will be conducted at a later date.