The US Embassy in Israel recently informed the Chief Rabbi of Tsfat, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, that his visa to enter the United States had been revoked, Israel Hayom reported Monday. It should be noted that the chief rabbi of Tsfat’s visa did not expire but was actively revoked by the State Department.
Rabbi Eliyahu has established a rabbinical court, together with Rabbi Reuven Nakar, to investigate complaints of sexual assault in religious and Haredi society. He has been a great warrior in the defense of victims of sex crimes in cases that never reach the police because of the secretive tradition of Haredi and sometimes national religious enclaves. The move by a Democratic administration claiming to be on the side of women is outrageous and should be protested by feminists everywhere.
The State Department’s move will directly impede Rabbi Eliyahu’s efforts over the past few years to reach out to American Jews to persuade them to make Aliyah. Rabbi Eliyahu has been publicly critical of the Reform movement, which may explain why his enemies overseas may have used their connections to get his visa revoked. It’s also possible that the Israeli Reform movement, which today has an outspoken representative in the Knesset, Labor MK Gilad Kariv. It could also be an act of vengeance of the Lapid-Bennett government against their enemies in the Religious Zionism party.
The US embassy refused to comment on the report. Rabbi Eliyahu’s office told Israel Hayom they suspected “anti-Zionists like the Reform movement, which frequently tries to infringe on the freedom of expression by silencing rabbis. After failing to silence Rabbi Eliyahu using legal means, they are now trying to silence the rabbi with petty means.”
The Reform movement in Israel has been among Rabbi Eliyahu’s major opponents in legal actions all the way up to the Supreme Court. Between 2002 and 2021, he has been the subject of numerous Supreme Court debates, some of which included his accusation that the justices were responsible for the murder of Jews. When the current government was being forged, Rabbi Eliyahu organized a petition drive warning that the inclusion of Islamists in the coalition would result in harm to the country’s security.
Incidentally, Rabbi Eliyahu is a vegetarian – you may want to stress this detail in your report to US feminists.
“There’s no reason to worry, they will not succeed,” rabbi Eliyahu’s office stated.
Here are some of the brave acts taken by Rabbi Eliyahu to protect women and children against their abusers. Someone should disseminate this list in the feminist circles in the US:
- In 2014, he was involved in exposing the exploits of Rabbi Ezra Sheinberg and removing him from the yeshiva he headed.
- In May 2019, he published a letter containing a series of harsh allegations about the unethical conduct of Rabbi Shmuel Tal and concluded that he did not recommend learning from him or at his yeshiva. A special tribunal set up to clarify the matter forbade Rabbi Tal from “engaging in the Holy Spirit” and counseling people in person.
- Rabbi Eliyahu was one of the chief investigators of the case of sex abuser Yehuda Meshi Zahav.
- To this day, Rabbi Eliyahu is leading a rabbinical and religious boycott of Rabbi Eliezer Berland.
- Following the publication of the inquiry into children’s author Haim Velder in November 2021, Rabbi Eliyahu stated that “this man is dangerous to society,” and added, “We have received very serious evidence from men and women who have been harmed.” He recommended not keeping Velder’s books at home.
- Avigail Halbron, founder of “Do Not Shut Up” told Makor Rishon in December 2021: “Rabbi Eliyahu picked up the gauntlet and told the victims that he is on their side, that he believes in them… If Rabbi Eliyahu had not done something, nothing would have been done. He expressed his trust in the victims when no Haredi rabbi did so.
- In 2022, it was reported that Rabbi Moshe Yazdi, a rabbi of a Jerusalem community who worked with Ba’alei teshuva, exploited and sexually assaulted women who came to his classes. In response, Rabbi Eliyahu’s rabbinical court declared Yazdi’s disciples a cult and Yazdi a rapist. They also declared him an outcast.