Rabbi Hecht Makes Kiddush With Al-Qaida Terrorists


eli-hechtTwo weeks ago, Rabbi Eli Hecht was transferred to a prison further away from Madrid. The move was apparently called for by the administration of the Soto del Real jail, on the grounds that too many instructions were given to them on the handling of Eli Hecht.

Terrified during the first two days of his stay at the new prison, Hecht kept to himself. Some of the 1,200 inmates are convicted Al-Qaida operatives.

Last week, Hecht was visited by a number of activist working in his behalf. During the visit of Madrid’s Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Ben-Zaken, the rabbi spoke with the head warden of the new prison, and explained to him the unusual predicament of Rabbi Hecht. Rabbi Ben-Zaken emphasized the importance that Eli be allwoed to Daven and continue receiving Kosher food. Rabbi Ben-Zaken played a crucial role in securing Hecht’s permission to have Tefilin and Kosher food in his previous jail.

The rabbi also told the directors of Hecht’s troubles with a television on Shabbos, and the many immodest images hung up by fellow inmates.

The prison warden was extremely moved by Rabbi Ben-Zaken’s words and went with the rabbi to meet Hecht personally in his cell. The warden said he was deeply impressed by Hecht’s “positive personality and integrity”.

Subsequent to their encounter, Eli was moved to a different wing of the prison, housing no terrorists. He was also granted permission to use his Tefilin whenever he wanted to. The warden went as far as to give Eli his own cell, so he will not be disturbed by the television and coarse talk of his fellow inmates.

Rabbi Ben-Zaken brough a large quantity of Kosher food which Eli was allowed to keep. The warden told the rabbi that he could feel free to continue to bring the food packages in the future.

In the cell next to his, another Jewish prisoner is locked away. Rabbi Hecht has began sharing his Tefilin with him and studying on a regular basis with him.

“It seems to me that this whole nightmare has befallen me so I could come into contact with this Jew and the three others in this prison,” Hecht told RabbI Ben-Zaken, reminding him of the famous story of the Shpola Zeide.

When Rabbi Ben-Zaken informed Hecht that he had brought grape juice for him, and that after three months, eh would finally be able to make Kiddush on Shabbos, Hecht lost control of himself and broke out into tears.

Rabbi Ben-Zaken explained that prison regulations ban glass in the jail, as well as potentially alcoholic beverages. But the faithful rabbi made his case to the warden and was assisted in this instance too.

During his many lectures throughout Spain, Rabbi Ben-Zaken uses the opportunity to remind people of Rabbi Hecht’s plight, and of his self-sacrifice for performing Mitzvos. Rabbi Ben-Zaken attests to the great religious awakening his story has triggered, when people hear of true dedication to one’s faith.

Eli’s optimism left a deep impact on Rabbi Ben-Zaken who said he was simply “left without words” when Eli told him he’s not worried one bit for his welfare.

The “Action Committee” pledges to assist them in pursuing the best legal treatment possible for Eli. They say his situation is complicated and will need much financial support. To find out how to help, email zeev@crombie.com.

Tefillos should be said for Eliyahu Rachamim ben Rachel.

{Chabad.info/Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. to #1

    He traveled from Tzfas to Costa Rica on a weeklong fundraising mission. Arriving in San Jose, the capital of the Central American republic, he spent most of his time at the shul where he met a stranger — a Jewish man whom members of the community said was a regular who came daily to shul and was a shomer Shabbos.

    The man gave Hecht a hefty donation and offered him lodging in his home for the duration of his stay. He also took him around to donors to help him gather donations for the soup kitchen, called Eishel Binyamin.

    Before Hecht’s scheduled departure to his home in Israel, which included a short stopover in Madrid, his host asked him if he could take a suitcase for delivery to a woman in Madrid.

    Although Hecht was wary, being suspicious of the suitcase’s contents, his host calmed him down.

    “You have nothing to worry about,” he said, telling him to open the valise and check out what was in it.

    Hecht opened the suitcase, saw some women’s clothes strewn in it and agreed to take it. He was to go to the main shul in Madrid where a woman would pick it up, he was told.

    Arriving at Madrid’s Barajas International Airport last Wednesday, he was stopped and his suitcase was checked. He was stunned to discover a large quantity of cocaine hidden within its folds and was arrested.

    It’s easy to say he was a fool for taking it but if YOU were hosted by the man and received a donation for your cause and was helped by him and then he started berating you – how dare you suspect him and how dare you refuse to return a favor after staying under his roof and eating from his table – you would find it extremely hard to appear like an ingrate and say no. Have rachmanus!

    R’Hecht is 57, has elderly parents living in the United States, and his six children are not yet married.