Elazar Stern
Elazar Stern IDF Spokesperson's Unit

A 17-year-old was arrested Friday on suspicion of spitting at Member of Knesset Elazar Stern (Hatnua) as the parliamentarian was leaving the synagogue in the Lower Galilee community of Mitzpeh Hoshaya.

The incident occurred against the backdrop of a Knesset speech by MK Stern Wednesday in which he claimed that Rabbi Dov Lior of Kiryat Arba said that Ethiopian immigrants are not Jews.

"I exited the morning prayer at Hoshaya," Stern told Arutz Sheva. "I stood in the synagogue's courtyard and spoke with two friends. As we were standing, we were approached by a 17.5-year-old youth who had cursed me inside the synagogue several months ago. I knew that within his home, there had been heavy pressure on him to change his ways and that his parents had taken the matter badly, very badly. So I was convinced that he was approaching in order to finally ask for forgiveness.

"When his face was about 30 cm (12") from mine, he collected spit in his mouth and spat my face. I gathered strength in order not to respond. He repeatedly said, 'This for Rabbi Dov Lior, you apikoros [skeptic or apostate].' He was referring to the speech I gave a few days ago in the Knesset plenum about the utterances by Rabbi Dov Lior."

Stern said his wife took the incident badly. "Tears welled up in her eyes as she said, 'I don't have the strength to go back to that period.'" She may have been referring to the time of the Disengagement from Gaza, which Stern took part in as a senior IDF officer, causing many religious Zionists to view him as one who had betrayed the community he hailed from.

"Then," Stern added, "the youth's parents came, who took it very badly, asked for forgiveness and apologized in his name. They also asked me not to file a police complaint. I told them that for their own good and in view of the fact that they failed [to discipline their son] – and as I said, they really are good people – it is best for all of us if I do complain. It is also my duty as a citizen."

Stern attacked Rabbi Lior after the rabbi reportedly said at a Torah lesson that "Ethiopians are not Jews." According to the Kippah website, the rabbi reportedly also told a participant in the lesson, "G-d forbid that if your son marries an Ethiopian woman, she is not a Jew."

The remarks were reportedly quoted by Barych Dasta, an Ethiopian Jew who was present at the lesson. Dasta is an IDF hero who lost his leg in a terror attack in Hevron in 2002, which killed 12 others.

MK Stern said emotionally in the Knesset "Should we not say 'enough – we are sick of this; he is not our rabbi; the state of Israel cannot continue to pay him money, there are limits to what we are willing to tolerate?" He expressed hope that Ethiopian Jews will not be hurt by Rabbi Lior's words, which he said were "a desecration of G-d's name."

Yossi Dagan, a student of Rabbi Lior and the deputy head of the Samaria Regional Council, challenged Stern to remove his parliamentary immunity so that he could be sued for libeling the rabbi. Stern "did not bother to check with the household of Rabbi Lior if his disgusting accusations were true, before he made them," said Dagan.