Panic in Jerusalem
Parents in a tight-knit neighborhood believe a pedophile ring is terrorizing children. What if it doesn’t exist?
There was no hint of pedophilia in the community before October 2010. But the Haredi community in Nahlaot now believes that the highly organized ring has been operating secretly for years—possibly generations—and is governed by an elaborate hierarchy. According to community members with whom I’ve spoken over the past year, they believe that a small number of masterminds, including the 70-year-old Vorst, a convert to Judaism who directs Ohel Sarah Imenu, an organization that facilitates Haredi conversions, used formerly abused teenagers and mentally handicapped locals as scouts for the victims. Community members believe that these scouts watched the children and parents from outdoor locations that offered prime vantage points—under the guise of tending gardens, doing calisthenics, or panhandling—and memorized their schedules, recording when the children would be unsupervised. The pedophiles noted the schedules of various homeowners, residents of Nahlaot claim, and they allegedly snuck into dozens of apartments and sheds in the neighborhood in order to abuse the children, who have pointed out these locations to their parents. Many are convinced that there are Christian missionary motivations at play here and that false converts have infiltrated their community. A number of locals told me they believe that the videos and media produced by the pedophile ring are being sold for tens of thousands of dollars or more.
The Nahlaot situation is already widely referred to as the worst pedophile case in Israel’s history. This is a phenomenal understatement. If true, this would be, in terms of the number of perpetrators and the scope of conspiracy, unprecedented in known criminal history. Indeed, not only that: It would be the first proven instance of an association generally acknowledged to be the great white whale of sex crimes. “To be perfectly blunt,” said Dorothy Rabinowitz, a member of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board who won a Pulitzer Prize for her extensive coverage of such cases, “there is no such thing as a pedophile ring.”
By the summer of 2011, there was, in the eyes of many in the community, no doubt that a pedophile ring was in their midst. It was around this time, too, that Leiby Kletzky, an 8- year-old Hasidic boy from Brooklyn, was abducted and gruesomely murdered by someone in his community. Parental fears were at a fever pitch. Aaron Leibowitz, a rabbi in Nahlaot, wrote an open letter to the community:
A great darkness has come over our community. I am sorry to have to share with any of you who may be hearing this for the first time that over 100 children, almost exclusively from the charedi camp, have been molested by a circle of despicable sexual predators living amongst us. While a few of these monsters have been put behind bars, there are others who continue to walk free due to a lack of hard evidence, and the problematic nature of child testimony. I was personally told by the social service official in charge of interviewing the children that there is no doubt that some of these men are guilty, only a lack of admissible evidence.
This lack of admissible evidence was indeed a problem from the start. The two-page report of Noa Klein’s original complaint, which is now court evidence and which I read in Politi’s office, shows the interviewing officer clearly growing more and more concerned about Satz. The complaint certainly contains potentially inappropriate behavior—including having children over to play games—but nothing illegal was mentioned. Satz was nevertheless held, but after six days he was released due to lack of evidence.
Three days later, another complaint, this one filed by a local father named Dovid Manheim, mentioned Satz as well. Unlike Noa Klein’s complaint, this time Satz was directly accused. Mannheim approached the police to find out why Satz had been released after only six days. “My neighbors … told us that Binyamin Satz abused the children of one of the neighbors,” he said, according to the complaint. “We later found out that Binyamin Satz was arrested last Friday and was then released to house arrest, since there was no evidence against him because the kids didn’t tell the police or investigators. So, I came here yesterday to help, and I met the investigator Aliza, to find out how I can help in this case. She told me they need a testimony about an act that happened with a child. I came to the police today, because last night I asked my son [redacted], who’s 7, ‘Did you go into his house?’ That’s all I asked. And then he told me everything on his own.”
After hearing these stories, Lerner began to suspect that her own children’s developmental issues—which include extreme fear, antisocial tendencies, nervousness, and incontinence—might be due to Satz as well. She told me she gently interrogated her younger son, then 4-and-a-half years old. “I told him Binyamin Satz is in jail,” she recounted. “He said, ‘Why?’ I said, ‘because he did things to kids. Did he ever do anything to you?’ He told me, ‘No, he never did bad things, he just wanted to educate me.’ ‘How do you educate kids?’ He said he gave punishments for bad kids. He started describing, ‘He stuck a screwdriver in my backside,’ and all these sexual things that I can’t describe.”
By late 2010, dozens of children had told their parents they were abused, and the circle of accused kept growing. The acts reported by the children, nearly all between the ages of 3 and 9, are incredibly horrific and often very bizarre. Virtually none of the allegations involve only one molester and one victim; the children have consistently claimed multiple offenders and multiple victims. There are reports of orgies involving as many as 20 adults and more than a dozen children. There were, allegedly, frequent raping and forced sodomy of children as young as 2 years old. The children claim that various objects—including large branches, semi-automatic rifles, screwdrivers, and other carpenter’s tools—were forcibly stuck up their anuses and other orifices; that knives were held to their throats; that they were told that if they didn’t voluntarily return to be raped, they would be “chopped up into little pieces,” or that their entire families would be murdered. They claim that they were shown, by way of threat, the guns that would be used for this purpose and told that cameras had been installed in their homes to ascertain their silence. The children claim that they were, on various occasions, bound up and beaten, held on top of open flames, lashed with sticks, burned with chemicals, given soft drinks spiked with hallucinogens, and injected with drugs.
We must drop the assumption that there is no way to vanquish Hamas. Terrorists have been defeated before.