Friday, September 11, 1998

Case of Cantor Ami Edri

Case of Cantor Ami Edri
(AKA: Serial Rapist From The South, Forest Rapist)

Camp Counselor - Bnei Akiva Youth Movement
Kiryat Malachi, Israel 
East Talpiot, Israel
Jerusalem, Israel
Kennedy Forest, Israel
 Hirbet Sa'adim, Israel
Ein Yahal, Israel
Tel Azeka, Israel

Convicted of raping and assaulted  eight women ages 16 to 22 during a three month period during the summer of 1998.  He was sentenced to 18 years in jail on charges which included kidnapping and attempted rape .  According to reports he allegedly assaulted a total of 14 women, all of whom were from the ultra-orthodox world.  

It was reported that at the time of the assaults, Ami Edri was religious, married man, who was also a father.  He also served as a counselor in the Bnei Akiva youth movement and was a cantor during the high holidays. 
According to newspaper accounts, Edri was a member of one of his hometown's most prominent families.

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Table of Contents

  1. Furor erupts over hiding rapist's identity (10/27/1997)

  1. Suspected rapist's identity revealed  (09/10/1998)
  2. 'There's no such thing as a monster' (09/11/1998)

  1. 'Forest rapist' sentenced to 18 years (11/05/1999)

Suspected rapist's identity revealed
By Amy Klien
Associated Press - September 10, 1998 

The ban on the identity of the "rapist from the South" was lifted yesterday by the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, following an appeal by journalists. Ami Edri, 25, from Kiryat Malachi, is accused of raping, sodomizing, or molesting 14 women. Edri served as a deputy director - general of a non-profit organization. The publication ban on Edri's picture and other details is still in force. 

Kiryat Malachi Mayor Shimon Moshe told Army Radio yesterday that Edri is a member of one of the town's most prominent families and said the town is in shock. Edri, he said, was very active in educational and cultural activities with the town's youth. 

'There's no such thing as a monster'
By Dan Izenberg
Jerusalem Post - September 11, 1998 

The rapist who struck at least 14 times in less than two months prays daily and works as a cantor during the High Holy Days. Dan Izenberg talks to experts who challenge the popular belief that sexual offenders are psychopaths. Box at end of text. 

The press has dubbed 25-year-old Kiryat Malachi resident Ami Edri, suspected of having raped and assaulted 14 women in less than two months, the "serial rapist from the south." But according to Bar-Ilan University criminologist Ruth Ben-David, there is no such thing as a serial rapist. 

"The name was taken from the phenomenon of serial killers," said Ben-David. "But the term is appropriate in that case because most killers kill once. Rape, on the other hand, is addictive because rapists fail to get satisfaction from the act. It is a substitute for something else." 

Noga Shiloah, head of the Rape Crisis Center in Jerusalem, agrees that repeated rape and sexual assault is commonplace. In fact, she added, there are a number of sexual assailants roaming freely around the Jerusalem area who have already struck several times and about whom police know little, if anything. 

"There's one guy who knocks on doors and asks for a glass of water," said Shiloah. "He has already raped several women who let him in." 

In the last year, at least three women have been sexually assaulted on the scenic promenade in East Talpiot. 

Whether serial rapist or just plain rapist, Edri managed to terrify many women during the weeks of his violent rampage in July and August. According to reports, he used the same ploy each time. He offered lifts to young women, many of them hitchhiking alone, and told them he directed Jewish Agency day camps for children or worked for the Society for the Protection of Nature. 

In several cases he took the girls home, but fixed a date with them for an imaginary job interview. He would then take them to the woods, on the pretext of showing them the site of a camp, and attack them. 

Edri operated mainly in the Jerusalem and Lachish districts and admitted to rapes in the Kennedy Forest, Hirbet Sa'adim, Jerusalem, Ein Yahal and Tel Azeka. 

Religious, married and the father of a baby boy, Edri studied in a religious high school and served as a counselor in the Bnei Akiva youth movement. According to reports, he attends morning prayers daily and serves as a cantor on the holidays. 

Not exactly the type of person most people would imagine as a violent rapist. But according to the experts, it is a mistake to depict rapists as monsters. 

"Rapists aren't psychopaths," said Shiloah. "Usually, they are people who function well in society and do not behave violently in daily life. It's not surprising that {Edri} is a nice boy."
According to Ben-David, the sexual act is only part of what motivates the sexual offender. "Many experts believe that rape has nothing to do with sex," she said. "It is an expression of anger or a desire to take control over someone else's life." 

In the overwhelming majority of cases, the rapist does not fulfill the legal criteria for insanity - in other words, he is aware of, and responsible for, his actions at the moment of the crime. 

Anyone might be a rapist. "It could be your neighbor," said Ben-David. "For that matter, it could be you. Some people, when they get angry, kick their dogs. Others take a cold shower. Some rape women." 

Even the fact that Edri is religious is not exceptional, continued Ben-David. While the number of criminals in the religious and haredi communities is proportionally lower than in secular society, the proportion of sexual offenders among religious and haredi criminals is higher, she said. 

"Religious education is successful in getting its pupils to internalize standards of morality," she explained. "That is why there are fewer criminals in the religious and haredi population on the whole than among the secular population. However, sexual crimes are less connected to cognitive processes than other crimes and more associated with passion and lust - feelings less prone to self-control through education." 

If there is anything unusual about the Edri case, it is the fact that virtually all of his victims seem to have been religious. In many cases, these young women were hitchhiking on their own, sometimes at night, and accepted a lift with a strange man driving alone. 

This phenomenon also has a logical explanation, according to Shiloah. "He {Edri} operated in an area of small settlements where public transportation is poor," she said. "Hitchhiking is an important way of getting around. One of our volunteers lives in Gush Etzion and she hitchhikes all the time. It's an accepted way of life in those areas. 

"Furthermore, Edri took advantage of the fact that he looked like one of them - religious, young, clean-cut. Maybe that's what persuaded them to get into the car with him. It was a combination of his background and their naivete." 

The fact that all the victims were religious has led to complications in the investigation, police say. Earlier this week, police asked the court to extend Edri's remand. They said that the investigation was taking longer than usual because the investigators had to make sure that the families of the victims did not come into contact with one another. 

This kind of sensitivity, in which victims want their identity kept secret, even from other victims of the same assailant, may come as a surprise to secular readers. But it is only one of many facets that distinguish the religious and haredi populations from the secular in such matters. 

So wide is the cultural divide that three years ago a group of Orthodox women, with the blessings of their rabbis, established The Crisis Center for Religious Women at Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek Hospital. 

The center runs an emergency hot line to deal with the emotional crises that religious and haredi women may confront in their lives - including domestic strife, health problems, violence and sexual abuse. 

There are two basic reasons why a separate Orthodox crisis center is needed. 

Religious women feel more comfortable confiding in someone who understands and shares their culture and system of beliefs. Secondly, there may be concrete halachic problems related to the crisis which only an Orthodox counselor can help resolve. 

For example, if an Orthodox woman is raped, she must receive rabbinical dispensation for an abortion. In such cases, the crisis center asks for permission on behalf of the woman without divulging her identity. This arrangement would be impossible in the secular Rape Crisis Center, whom the rabbis would most likely refuse to talk to. 

In addition to the emotional upheaval that all women suffer when sexually attacked, there may be additional religious overtones to the crisis that only an Orthodox counselor will understand. For example, women who are raped during the nida period, when sexual relations are banned, often suffer from additional guilt. 

The center also helps to keep the news of a sexual attack from spreading throughout the close-knit Orthodox community. Recently, a young American woman studying in Jerusalem was raped. Within two hours, the news had spread throughout the Orthodox community in Jerusalem and her home town of New York City. 

In another, similar case two weeks later, the student's school counselor notified the center immediately and it intervened to put a lid on the affair. 

Despite the substantial differences between the Orthodox and secular communities, the borderline between the two is often blurred. In fact, some of Edri's victims went to the secular Jerusalem Rape Crisis Center for help. 

In discussing the phenomenon of repeated sexual offenders, Shiloah mentioned that she was certain Edri was responsible for more attacks than he has admitted to. 

How does she know? 

Since the news of his rampage was reported in the press, she said, three more women, recognizing the trademarks of his method, have come to the center to tell their stories.
(Box) Police disdain 

Recently, the Rape Crisis Center in Jerusalem intervened on behalf of a 28-year-old American graduate student at the Hebrew University after police refused her request to press charges against an Arab man who assaulted her in broad daylight near the east Jerusalem central bus station. The student's story sheds light on the status of women - particularly foreigners - in Israeli and Palestinian society. It also reveals the way, at least in this instance, in which police deal with sexual assault  that does not progress to rape. 

On the morning of June 26, A. took a taxi from Mt. Scopus to Salah a-Din St. on her way to the international student travel office in downtown Jerusalem. 

At one point, before crossing the road, she noticed three Arab men sitting on a ledge opposite the bus station. As she walked past, one of them asked her for the time. As she looked at her watch, he advanced toward her, pointed to her chest and asked "What's that?" Before she realized what he meant, the man grabbed her breasts forcefully. 

A. said she was horrified and humiliated. But she was also enraged. She had served in the US army for four years and immediately adopted a posture of self-defense. Caught by surprise, the man started screaming at her and poured a carton of milk on her clothes. At that moment, his friends summoned him and they boarded an Egged bus. A. ran after them, boarded the bus and demanded that the driver help her. He refused, but pulled over in front of two mounted police. The police took the woman and her assailants to a small police station. 

From there, she was sent to the Russian Compound police station to lodge a complaint. On August 11, in a terse, bureaucratic form, without explanation, the police informed A. that "the circumstances of the matter did not justify pressing charges." 

A. was infuriated. With the same tenacity and determination with which she pursued her assailant on the bus, she would not take no for an answer. 

She called the station and, in faltering Hebrew, demanded to know why the case had been closed. She got rudeness and mockery for an answer. 

"There was no sense of trying to help me," she said. "One officer, a woman, was particularly rude. She made it known to me that I had to speak Hebrew better, that I had to be the one to tell her which office to transfer me to. I could hear laughter in the background and it seemed that she had turned the telephone speaker toward the room so her comrades could hear what I was saying." 

It was only after the intervention of the Rape Crisis Center that police agreed to prosecute.
The incident was the first time A. has ever been physically attacked. But it was far from her first confrontation with sexual advances during the year she has spent in Jerusalem.
"This is an incredibly aggressive society," she said. "It takes a woman one hour in this country to realize that her status here is different than it is back home. This is a society with a Western facade but a Middle Eastern heart. As I walk the streets of east Jerusalem, men constantly leer at me and tell me they want to have sex. One kid even showed me his penis. I have trouble with Arab teenage boys and Israeli men in their forties. The Israelis ask me whether I'm Russian, in other words, whether I'm a prostitute. Men shout at me from windows, lean out of their cars and honk their horns. Many women I know have been grabbed. 

"One woman's breasts were grabbed so hard that it left a scar. Another was grabbed between the legs. I know a blonde Finnish woman who dyed her hair dark because she was receiving too much attention. We've learned that in this society, you do not make eye contact with men. 

"Here, a smile means so much more, eye contact means so much more and the word no is not so powerful." 


'Forest rapist' sentenced to 18 years
By Dan Izenberg
Jerusalem Post - November 5, 1999

Jerusalem District Court yesterday sentenced Ami Edri to 18 years in jail on charges including the kidnapping and attempted rape of eight women aged 16 to 22 during a three- month period in the summer of 1998. 

It was one of the harshest sentences ever issued for a non- domestic sexual crime. Edri's lawyer, Ya'acov Rubin, said he would appeal to the Supreme Court to reduce the prison term. 

Edri became know as the "forest rapist" because he offered lifts to unsuspecting women, almost all of them religious, told them he was driving in the direction they wanted to go, and then took them to nearby woods on false pretexts, where he attacked them physically and sexually. 

Edri, who arrived in court with manacles on his legs, hid his face from photographers, then sat stooped on a chair with his eyes on the floor as Judge Ya'acov Zemah read out a detailed description of each of his sexual assaults. 

"The accused turned the kidnapping of young women in order to perpetrate terrible sexual attacks upon them into a systematic pattern of behavior," he said. "The charges paint a picture of a 'hunt' which the accused carried out at night, usually around midnight, when the streets were deserted and traffic on the highway was light. This was the time when he would cruise around and choose his victims for sexual abuse. He caught them in his net by dissimulation, deceit, and enticement. 

"Then came the hell: the kidnapping, late at night, in a deserted and dark forest, when the accused suddenly turns into a wild animal. He hits them, slaps them, kicks their heads, pushes them, tears their clothes off, and threatens them with violence or murder if they don't give in to his distorted lust." 

Zemah said that mitigating factors which Rubin, Edri's brothers, and other well-wishers raised on the accused's behalf, including the fact that this was his first offense, that he had done good deeds for others throughout his life, and that he had suffered in his childhood, were not enough to offset his criminal acts. 

"All his good past pales in comparison to the terrible deeds that he perpetrated on eight innocent young women," he wrote. "The accused was revealed as a vicious rapist, cold-blooded and lacking a conscience." 

Zemah added, however, that he had taken into consideration the fact that Edri had confessed to his crimes, thus sparing his victims, who were shattered by their experiences, from having to testify in public. 

According to the Justice Ministry, only one man convicted of rape outside the family has been given a longer sentence than Edri. The man, whose name was not given, was sentenced to 21 years in jail. In that case, however, the man had a criminal past and had threatened his victims with a knife. Another famous rapist, the "athletic rapist," was sentenced to 14 years in jail, but attacked fewer victims than Edri. 

The court gave Rubin 45 days to appeal. Rubin told reporters after sentencing that "the punishment is very harsh and deviates in an extreme way from the sentences handed out by the Supreme Court. I think that in this case, involving someone who is a first-time offender, even if the offenses are serious ones, Edri ought to have gotten some of his jail sentence suspended, and not to have been imprisoned for such a long time." 


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