Rabbi Yoram Abergel
Rabbi Yoram AbergelIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Hundreds of people joined protests Saturday night calling to release Rabbi Yoram Aberjil. Rabbi Aberjil, a kabbalist from Netivot, was arrested several days ago on suspicion of extortion and threats.

His remand was extended as police continue to investigate charges that the rabbi, crime kingpin Shalom Domrani, and others used threats and fraud in the weeks leading up to the Netivot municipal elections. They supported Mayor Yehiel Zohar, who won, over challenger Eyal Mesika.

Protests were held in support of the rabbi in Ashkelon and in Jerusalem. While the protest in Ashkelon proceeded peacefully, the Jerusalem rally grew disorderly, with protesters blocking traffic. Police arrested eight people for disturbing the peace.

Rabbi Aberjil was also sent a letter of support from Rabbi Shimon Badani, a member of the Shas Council of Torah Sages. In his letter Rabbi Badani slammed what he termed “the shocking behavior of the Israel Police in arresting the rabbi.”

Rabbi Badani called on the public to pray on Rabbi Aberjil’s behalf.

Mayor Yehiel Zohar slammed Rabbi Yaakov Ifergan – who has alleged that he faced attempted extortion and blackmail prior to the elections – in an interview with Channel 10 news last week. Zohar accused Rabbi Ifergan and his followers of “acting exactly like a crime family.”

The arrests in Netivot come as police are waging a campaign against organized crime in southern Israel.