Trial for Three Yeshiva Bochurim in Japan, Tefillos Needed


450def-motitzivinThe trial of one of three Israeli yeshiva bochurim charged with smuggling drugs into Japan – inside a suitcase that a “friend” asked them to take for him – has begun, and the other two are to begin within weeks. Efforts to give the three legal aid and financial help have been stepped up in Jewish communities around the world. This past week, well-known American-born dayan Rav Menachem Mendel Shafran, who is on the bais din of Rav Yehudah Leib Landau of Bnei Brak, spoke to the court and answered questions posed by the judge and prosecutor. The mayor of Bnei Brak, Rabbi Yaakov Asher, also testified, telling the court that the boys absolutely would not knowingly transport drugs and were duped into taking the suitcase.

The story began last April when the three bochurim from Yerushalayim and Bnei Brak, all under age 20 and one under age 18, were asked to transport some antiques from Holland to Japan. The friend who asked them for the favor offered them $1,000 each and assured them that everything was legal.

Once in Amsterdam, they were given the “antiques” – concealed inside false-bottomed suitcases. Told that this was a precaution against theft, they once again suspected nothing, and flew on to Tokyo. In Japan, the false bottoms were quickly detected and broken into by customs officials – who found there not antiques, but $3.6 million worth of Ecstasy pills.

The boy’s ensuing detention period has been “very difficult, to say the least,” sources close to the case say. Japan is known for its no-nonsense approach to drug-trafficking and other crimes, and in view of the severity of the charges, the boys have been separated from each other, grilled by interrogators, and forced to subsist on vegetables, fish and the like – so as not to eat non-kosher food.  

Held in conditions that are so very different from the culture and sheltered conditions in which they grew up, they are likely to face even more difficult conditions for untold years in Japanese prison if convicted. Japan and Israel do not have a mutual extradition treaty.

Actively helping out in procuring legal help and visitors are Rabbi Chaim Yosef Dovid Weiss of Antwerp, Attorney Mordechai Tzivin of Israel, who deals in international law and specializes in cases of Israelis incarcerated overseas, and Rabbi Aharon Nezri of London. In addition, Japanese lawyers have been hired to defend the boys, and they recently flew to Israel to see first-hand the environment of trust and kindness in which their clients grew up. 


The sources say that though criminal cases in Japan almost never end in acquittal, the boys’ exemplary behavior, as well as extenuating circumstances as they were carrying out their “crime,” have been noted. For one thing, all three have passed lie-detector tests showing that they were unwittingly taken advantage of by someone they trusted, and that they did not know what they were carrying. In addition, their behavior before and during their trip to Japan indicated that they felt not at all self-conscious or secretive about their intentions.  

“Their incarceration in Japan is very difficult,” one source emphasized, “physically, emotionally, and legally – and it can get intolerably worse if they are convicted.”  The boys spend whatever hours they have learning Torah and davening, and try to fulfill whatever mitzvos they can. Rabbi Nezri said that one of them told him, “No matter how much you think you understand what emunah is, you can’t really know what it means until you’re in my position.”

 All are urged to daven for Yoel Zeev ben Mirel Rissa Chava, Yaakov Yosef ben Raizel and Yosef ben Yuta Rivka.

 {Yair Israel}


  1. There should be a mass effort to reveal the rosho who did this to them. His name should be splashed everywhere so that he cannot hide. The harm he has done B’MEIZID is ain l’shayer. Hashem Yerachem on all of us.

    Let’s at least undo the rishus that was promulgated on these boys through our sincere tefillos and maaseim tovim in their zechus. Avinu Shebashomayim certainly knows what we need. I am davening for besuros tovos.

  2. Chaverim. The problem is not the rosho who set the boys up. It’s getting the boys out of their horrible matzav. The time has come for klal yisroel to organize SUSTAINED, worldwide demonstrations against the Japanese. Our tefilas are important, but we must do avodah be’poel ie. actual physical work, to accomplish the goal of freeing the yeshiva bochurim. The Japanese judge accused people by military tribunal, not via trial-by-jury (so prisoners do not get a fair trial). Their prison system came from the Japanese prisoner- of-war camps in World War II. It’s historical fact that while the Nazis were horrible, the Japanese were 100 times more barbaric and cruel to their prisoners. They consider themselves superior to the rest of the world, but are a barbaric nation.. ‘Shoichnei Ofor’. By worldwide demonstrations and protests, and if necessary exposing the world to the cruel, true face of Japan; boycott of Japanese products etc., they WILL LET THE bochurim go. NU?? ‘Im loy achshov, amoysai’- i.e. If not now, then when? When the boys chas v’cholila; become like ‘vegetables’ and are permanently damaged, from their treatment in Japan? Organize demonstrations in your community now!

  3. The Japanese are highly sensitive to world opinion. Due to demonstrations, Russia became a free nation and the Berlin wall was torn down. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were freed from bondage and emigrated to the West. Russia then split up into other, smaller countries. Many of those countries are now part of NATO and are democratic. The Japanese are very sensitive to world opinion. Through demonstrations in front of their embassies and consulates, it’s possible to get the Yeshiva Bochurim released or transfered to Israel. Only a coward woud refuse to help their fellow Jew, ‘acheinu bais yisroel ho’oimdim batzoroh u’bashivyo’, rachmono litzlan. Hope to see you at the demonstrations! Please organize in your community or city!


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