Birthright beating victim gives testimony

Sherry Kestenbaum was beaten by fellow program participant.

Sherry Kestenbaum, a 23- year-old New Jersey resident who was brutally beaten more than two weeks ago while staying at Kibbutz Almog as part of her Birthright trip, submitted testimony in the case against her attacker at the Jerusalem District Court on Wednesday before flying back to the United States, a Judea and Samaria police spokesman told The Jerusalem Post.
On May 31, Kestenbaum was attacked in the early hours of the morning, allegedly by fellow Birthright participant Jonathan Haft, a 25-year-old resident of Wayne, New Jersey, after Kestenbaum rebuffed his advances.
According to reports, Haft unleashed an assault on the young woman that knocked out a number of her teeth, broke her jaw in three places (and other facial bones) and left her with contusions on her lung that led to pneumonia.
After an Israeli guest at the kibbutz exited his room during the commotion and pulled Haft off Kestenbaum, Haft fled the scene, but was later apprehended by police and arrested.
Kestenbaum was until Wednesday being treated at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem's Ein Kerem, where she underwent surgery on her jaw and received medical treatment for a slew of other injuries.
Once she returns to the US, Kestenbaum will also have to undergo reconstructive facial surgery and receive dental implants throughout the later stages of her recovery.
Haft, in custody since the ordeal, is to appear in court on charges of assault with a deadly weapon, as he is a martial arts expert. He was present in court on Wednesday but did not speak, and Kestenbaum refused to look at him throughout her testimony.
The spokesman from Judea and Samaria police, which oversaw the investigation into the attack, told the Post on Wednesday that Kestenbaum had appeared in court, where she offered her version of the events leading up to and during the attack, and detailed the extent of her injuries.
“It’s something called ‘early testimony,’ as [Kestenbaum] was now well enough to return to the US and would not be here during the rest of the court proceedings,” the spokesman said.
“She gave her testimony, which was recorded by the court, and then was given permission to leave the country,” he added.
“Otherwise, the court proceedings are continuing as scheduled.”
The spokesman added that Kestenbaum was cross-examined by Haft’s lawyer during the proceedings, although it remained unclear on Wednesday evening when Haft himself would first appear in court. Kestenbaum was scheduled to fly back to the US on Wednesday night, the spokesman said.
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.