Photo: Brian Hendler
Israel´s Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar attends an Orthodox Union convention in Jerusalem in November 2004. Posted by Hello

By Dina Kraft

TEL AVIV, May 10 (JTA) — Teens meeting in Internet chat rooms is nothing new.

But a scandal involving two such teens is making international headlines because it involves the family of Israel’s Sephardi chief rabbi.

The rabbi, Shlomo Amar, said in a statement Sunday that he was not involved in the bizarre kidnapping and physical assault of an Internet acquaintance of his daughter. The boy is a fervently Orthodox 17-year-old from B’nai Brak.

Police arrested Amar’s wife, Mazal; their 18-year-old daughter Ayala; and their 31-year-old son, Meir, for their alleged roles in the incident. Mazal and Ayala Amar are under house arrest.

On Tuesday, Amar expressed “true anguish” over the ordeal, but maintained his denial of any involvement.

“Since I learned about the acts of my son, Meir, I have been full of sorrow and have experienced profound pain,” Amar told reporters outside his Jerusalem office Tuesday afternoon, according to Ha’aretz. “It is very important for me to say I feel true anguish for the youth who was hurt.”

Amar returned to Israel from Thailand on Tuesday morning and headed directly for the capital, where he was questioned under caution by police in connection with the case. Police broke off the interrogation to allow Amar to participate in a Memorial Day ceremony.

According to Israeli news reports, the family decided to take action against the boy because they were opposed to his relationship with Ayala.

The alleged relationship between the two, which began in a chat room several months ago, reportedly had led to several platonic dates. In the religious world, such meetings go against strict religious prohibitions limiting contact between single members of the opposite sex.

When Ayala continued the friendship despite family protests, her mother reportedly got in touch with Meir, who has been estranged from the family since he became secular as a teenager, to ask for help finding a solution to the problem.

Meir Amar has a criminal record, according to media reports, and police suspect he may be behind the plot to kidnap and beat the youth.

According to the police, Ayala Amar said she was forced to bring the unidentified youth to a car where her brother and two Israeli Arabs sat waiting. One of the men grabbed the youth at knifepoint and they all drove off together to the Arab village of Kalansua, where the two Israeli Arabs apparently live.

At a house in Kalansua, the youth was allegedly beaten and verbally assaulted for several hours. The youth said his side locks were cut off and yarmulke ripped off his head by his attackers during the beating. He was then allegedly taken to the Amars’ home, where he was beaten again, he told police.

It is not clear whether the chief rabbi or his wife were home at the time. The youth, however, implicated the chief rabbi in his statements to the police.

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