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Ethiopian-Israeli Student Supports Rabbi Dov Lior

Ethiopian-Israeli sticks up for Rabbi Dov Lior following racism accusations. ‘I never felt a hint of mistreatment.’
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 10/27/2013, 9:37 AM

Rabbi Dov Lior at Honanya Ashata's wedding
Rabbi Dov Lior at Honanya Ashata's wedding
Courtesy of Ashata family

Supports of Rabbi Dov Lior harshly criticized MK Elazar Stern (Hatnua) last week after Stern, speaking from the Knesset podium, accused the rabbi of racism against Israelis from Ethiopia. Among other things, Stern claimed that Rabbi Dov Lior publicly said that Ethiopian immigrants are not Jewish, and that Jews should not marry them.

Now his supporters have come forth with what they say is proof that MK Stern’s claims are wrong.

Deputy head of the Samaria (Shomron) Regional Council Yossi Dagan, who is a student of Rabbi Dov Lior, tracked down fellow students and got testimony supporting Rabbi Dov Lior as a warm and kind teaching to all of his students – including many of Ethiopian descent.

Dagan explained that he chose to prove Rabbi Dov Lior’s character “because the specific Torah lecture [upon which Stern’s claims were based] cannot be examined in court due to the fact that Stern has not revoked the parliamentary immunity which protects him from prosecution for slander.”

The first character testimony came from Honanya Ashata, an Ethiopian immigrant who was a student at the Nir Yeshiva in Kiryat Arba.

“I learned under Rabbi Dov Lior for five years,” he told Dagan. “Not only did I never feel even a hint of mistreatment, but more than that, Rabbi Lior warmly welcomed me like any other yeshiva student, and I felt that he was available to answer my questions at any time, on any topic.”

When questions arose regarding Ethiopian Jewish traditions or customs, such as which blessing to recite over traditional foods, Rabbi Lior took a clear interest in the community and its heritage, he said.

When he married, he said, “Rabbi Lior invested hours in my preparations for the wedding, and even met with me and my fiancé, and gave us emotional support… Rabbi Lior himself conducted the wedding ceremony.”

Another story shared with Dagan involved a wedding between an Ethiopian Jewish young man and an Israeli-born young woman – the type of marriage which MK Stern claimed Rabbi Lior said is prohibited.

In fact, Dagan said, Rabbi Lior was involved in trying to help the wedding go forward. “Unfortunately, her parents were strongly opposed. Rabbi Lior did everything in his power to convince them, and even offered to conduct the couple’s wedding ceremony.”

He condemned the incident last week in which a teenager spit at MK Stern, but said he also condemns MK Stern’s attacks on religious-Zionist leaders. “On Saturday night we heard in the media from someone ‘close’ to the leadership Tzipi Livni’s party that the spit that the youth spat in Mitzpeh Hoshaya came from the mouth of Minister Naftali Bennett. No less,” he said.

“The [religious-Zionist] public is against spitting on MK Stern, but at the same time, opposes these repeated attacks on rabbis and heads of yeshivas,” he said.