Rabbi Tomer Rotem
The man who kidnapped the Shliach to Ecuador, Rabbi Tomer Rotem, is now claiming that he was the victim of a Chabad conspiracy. Even more surprisingly, Israel’s Channel 10 News believes his story.
Here is what we know happened:
• An Israeli man named Dani Dinur, a known international drug smuggler who spent many years in Austrian and Israeli Prisons, befriended the Shliach to Ecuador, Rabbi Tomer Rotem.
• Dani came to the Rabbi’s house one night with a suitcase filled with $150,000 cash, and asked if he could keep it there until the next day. The Rabbi refused, knowing Dani’s history and associations, but after much begging he reluctantly agreed.
• That night, the suitcase disappeared.
• The next day, when Dani was told what happened, he immediately accused the Rabbi of stealing the money, something which the Rabbi vehemently denied.
• Dani convinced those who loaned him the money – a Turkish drug cartel – that the Rabbi stole the money, and thus it could not be paid back.
• Rabbi Rotem was kidnapped by Dani and the cartel, and his family received a ransom note that he will not be freed until they receive payment of half million dollars.
• Miraculously, Rabbi Rotem was freed a few days later, after convincing Dani and the kidnappers that he would come up with the money.
• In a joint operation between Israeli and Ecuadorian law enforcement, Dani Dinur was apprehended, and awaits his trial in an Ecuadorian prison.
It seems to be a pretty clear cut story of a brazen outlaw taking advantage of a Rabbi’s kindness, until justice finally prevailed. But apparently, five months in an Ecuadorian prison was enough time for Mr. Dinur to concoct a marvelous tale, and concoct he did.
Although the story he came up with would not be very convincing to any intelligent person, nobody ever uses that adjective to describe Israel’s rabidly anti-religious media, who pounced on an opportunity to defame an entire religious movement.
Here is Dani’s version of events:
Dani decided that he had enough of a life filled with crime; he would turn his life around once and for all, and live by the letter of the law. He decided to enter into an honest and open market business endeavor: he was going to buy and sell a certain type of flower, called the ‘protea.’ He obtained $150 thousand dollars from a Turkish cartel, and decided (inexplicably) to keep it for the night in the Rabbi’s house. The Rabbi stole his money, and (for some reason) arranged with the cartel to have himself kidnapped, so that he could frame Dani and have him arrested. With the 150,000 in hand, the Rabbi disappeared from Ecuador, never to be seen again.
Why would Rabbi Rotem want to have himself kidnapped by a drug gang for a few days, instead of just making off with the money? And why would he risk his life and abandon his home and Chabad House (which cost him many years of hard work, and hundreds of thousands of dollars to build) for a measly $150,000?
Israel’s Channel 10 news does not bother with such pesky questions, because there is a religious organization’s reputation to besmirch. Facts and intelligence cannot be allowed to get in the way. The career criminal’s word of honor will just have to do.
The reason the Israeli Channel chose to believe Dani Dinur’s version of events, is because of one single piece of damning evidence: A Polygraph test.
Apparently, having accused the Shliach of stealing the money, Dani Dinur arranged for a polygraphist from Israel to come and interview Rabbi Rotem. He was asked if he stole the money, and he answered in the negative. According to polygraphist, Rabbi Rotem was 99.9 percent certain to be lying.
Again the news report conveniently forgets to mention a few facts:
1. Polygraph tests are considered by most scientists to be completely bogus – a pseudoscience – with absolutely no basis in reality. Results of polygraph tests have been proven to be no more accurate than 50/50 guesswork. This is why no country in the world with a modern justice system accepts polygraph results as evidence in court.
2. The people who administered the test were hired by Dani himself. If he paid them to take the trip and administer the test, perhaps he paid a little extra for some good old storytelling.
3. A polygraph test measures a person’s heartbeat and perspiration levels to determine if they are nervous when answering the question, which would seemingly point to a lie. Someone who just discovered that he is being accused by a dangerous cartel of stealing their money will probably be just a little bit nervous, even if he is 100% innocent.
But to the Israeli news channel, the word of the polygraphist was enough to convince them without the slightest shred of any doubt that the Shliach made off with the money.
The news report shows video footage taken by the kidnappers of Rabbi Rotem talking to the camera in Spanish. In the video, clad with a Turkish flag around his neck, he admits to stealing the money, apologizes for all the trouble he caused and promises to return the money. But what the News report fails to mention is that Rabbi Rotem has a gun to his head, and he is clearly reading remarks prepared for him by Dani or the cartel. If you watch his eyes, you can see he is reading off a document from behind the camera; you can also see that he is absolutely terrified, hardly a reaction you would see from someone who had just arranged his own kidnapping.
Of course, in order to put on the appearance of objectivity, the news channel says they wanted to interview Rabbi Rotem to get his word on the matter, but they had no idea where to find him. It did not occur to them that someone who had just been saved from a kidnapping by a drug cartel (having promised to come back and pay the ransom) would not publicize his new home address to the media. In fact, to them, the fact that Chabad Headquarters (both in Israel and in Crown Heights) didn’t go ahead and give them Rabbi Rotem’s new address, and claimed to have no knowledge of their interesting tale, was proof enough that the whole Chabad organization is in on the cover up.
That’s right: a respected worldwide organization, which spent close to $1 million dollars just for a banquet a month ago, was behind the robbery of $150,000 from an innocent unsuspecting Israeli, and then had him thrown in jail to cover it up.
For those who understand Hebrew, here is the news report; you have to see it to believe it: