Israel mob boss Shalom Domrani and Netivot Rabbi Yoram Abergil threatened the “x-ray rabbi,” Yaakov Ifergan, and other people in an effort to sway the recent municipal election, police said on Sunday.
The officers spoke at a remand hearing in the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court.
On Saturday night, police arrested Domrani at his house in Moshav Otzem and stopped Abergil from boarding a plane to China at Ben-Gurion Airport, and arrested another five suspects including members of Domrani’s organization.
At the hearing on Sunday, the court extended Domrani’s remand by eight days and Abergil’s by four, on charges of extortion, obstruction of justice, and tampering with the October 22 mayor election.
The accusations date back to the months leading up to the vote, when Abergil was supporting the reelection campaign of Yehiel Zohar against Ayal Mesika, including, according to some reports, making public pronouncements that voting for Zohar can absolve people of their sins and reward them with good fortune.
Police believe that Abergil conspired with Domrani to threaten people close to Ifergen, including having Domrani contact the rabbi and people close to him to “send him a message.”
Ifergen supported Mesika, and police believe that by threatening the rabbi, Domrani and Abergil hoped to sway the election.
Police added that they do not believe that the alleged threats determined the election result or that any vote-stealing or fraud took place. Zohar won with 58.4 percent of the votes against 41.6 percent for Mesika.
While his lawyer Moshe Sherman was being asked in court about a meeting between Domrani and Ifergan the day before the election, Domrani asked to speak.
“The rebbetzin [Bruriya Zvuloni, Ifergin’s sister] called my wife’s phone, looking for me. I answered her and said, What’s going on? and she said there’s all types of people who are saying that I want to hurt the rabbi.
She told me to call the rabbi, we spoke some and I told her I’m someone who believes in God and wouldn’t do a man like him any harm. She had him call my wife’s phone, and I called him back, he blessed me, my wife and kids. He told me to come visit him and I said, tomorrow I’ll come see you in Sderot.”
Domrani’s lawyer said at no time did his client threaten the rabbi, and repeated his assertion that the arrests were made on Saturday night solely for the sake of public relations, to show the public that police are doing something in the face of rising mob violence.
The presiding judge, Menahem Mizrahi, said in his closing remarks that he believes that the case stands on its own, independent of any desire to calm the public, and that there is enough evidence to form a basis for the claims made by police.
Home to only a little over 25,000 people, the southern city of Netivot has a reputation as a spiritual center, and is home to the Abuhatzeira rabbinical dynasty and the tomb of the Baba Sali, Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzeira, one of the most visited pilgrimage sites in the country.
Abergil and Ifergan have been rivals for years in the city and beyond, running competing religious networks.
Ifergan has achieved fame across Israel in recent years, largely due to the tycoons and celebrities who have turned to him as a trusted consultant. He earned his nickname “The Rentgen” (“The X ray”) because of the belief some hold that he is able to peer inside people and make medical diagnoses.
His sister Bruriya Zvuloni has achieved fame as a “borer,” or arbitrator, whom senior organized crime figures from the Abergils to the Abutbuls have come to in order to settle grievances and organize sitdowns.
She has been linked to Domrani in the past, and reportedly had warm relations with senior police officials including Israel Police Insp.-Gen. Yochanan Danino.
Rabbi Ifergen and Rabbi Abergil are among the richest rabbis in Israel, with fortunes in the tens of millions of shekels. Zvuloni has also amassed millions of shekels.
Domrani’s name has featured in headlines following recent two car bombs in Ashkelon that targeted members of his organization.
His arrest follows a number of organized crime arrests in the past couple weeks, including those of organized crime figures Avi Ruhan and Dudu Amouyal, and three members of Amir Mulner’s crime organization who were arrested on firearms charges.