Even Prisons Service Chaplain Rabbi Philip Jacobs got a sense he was being conned by serial rapist Benny Sela.
Jacobs, one of the few regular visitors Sela had during his confinement at Nitzan Prison, recounted to The Jerusalem Post Sunday how Sela frequently contacted him, asking him for help. "He would regularly ask me for prayer books, candles for Friday afternoons, and once asked me to bring him a Bible," Jacobs recalled.
"My gut feeling was that he was trying to be manipulative when calling me, and just seeking attention from professionals," Jacobs explained. "Criminals like him would try to entice staff into conversations, but my communications with him was mostly professional, which was intentional on my part."
Jacobs said he had conflicting thoughts about Sela's ability to rehabilitate himself. "My hope as a rabbi and as a believing Jew was that Sela and others like him had some spark of humanity left in them. Unfortunately, I didn't feel that most of my serial rapists expressed any true remorse. They felt that what they did was justified, or that it was they who were the victims."
Jacobs, who authored the book True Stories of Hope and Redemption: Memoirs of an American Karate Champ Turned Israel Prison Chaplain - Israel Behind Bars, said based on his unsuccessful 1999 prison escape, police were aware that Sela might try it again.
"My feeling was that those criminals serving long sentences like Sela never gave up hope of escaping and were not resigned to a life in jail. The Prisons Service is aware of that."
Sela's exploitation of his chance to escape did not surprise Jacobs. Prisoners like Sela, he said, had a very high IQ, Jacobs said, but had "a warped intelligence." He added: "All the sexual offenders have a very quick mind, are very manipulative, and are quicktongued."