(JTA) – A man from the haredi Orthodox town of Bnei Brak was indicted for making death threats against leaders of the Reform movement and vandalizing a Reform synagogue.
The man, whose name has not been made public, was arrested last month and prosecutors asked that he be held in custody until the end of his trial. He was indicted Monday on charges of extortion, threats, vandalism and intent to commit arson.
He allegedly also targeted the left-wing Breaking the Silence organization and threatened well-known atheists in Israel.
The incidents date back to 2014.
In November 2016, hate graffiti was painted on the walls of the Kehilat Ra’anan Reform Synagogue in Raanana and death threats left in envelopes held down by a knife addressed to prominent Reform leaders were left at its doorstep.
The phrase “The divine presence will never leave the Western Wall,” was spray-painted on the building, as well biblical references “Ovadia 18 and 21,” and “Psalms 139:21-22.” The Ovadia citation deals with the destruction of Israel’s enemies at the hand of a vengeful God. The Psalms citation states of enemies of God, “I hate them with utmost hatred; they have become my enemies.”
The letters were addressed to Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism; Rabbi Gilad Kariv, executive director of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism; and Anat Hoffman, chair of Women of the Wall and the head of the Israel Religious Action Center, the advocacy arm of the Reform movement in Israel. The threats came days after a protest for egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall led by the Reform leaders.
It was the second time the Raanana synagogue had been vandalized. Similar graffiti has been painted on the walls of the synagogue in January 2016, though no death threats had been issued. The threats included arson against the synagogue.
The man also left threatening letters held down by knives and graffiti outside of the homes of Israeli atheists, and had information on activists for Breaking the Silence in order to leave similar messages. He reportedly also had purchased gasoline and other equipment in order to burn down the headquarters of Breaking the Silence.