Please Note: The Tzunami footage in the clip was implemented as a sign of solidarity with the tragedy that struck the great Japanese nation.
Inspired by the success of the Unity music video which featured Jewish music’s best and brightest working together to raise funds and awareness for Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin, singer Shloime Daskal decided to embark on a similar project of his own.
He contacted Unity producer Danny Finkelman and suggested another video, this one to be filmed at the Japanese prison where Israeli bochurim Yoel Zev Goldstein and Yaakov Yosef Greenwald are still being detained after suitcases that they were carrying for someone else were in April 2008 were found to contain drugs.
Joining Shloime Daskal for this blockbuster project is Jewish music superstar Avraham Fried and the two will sing a cover of Yaakov Shwekey’s “Tatte”, which was in and of itself a remake of Abie Rotenberg’s “In A Vinkele” from Dveykus Volume 2. The project, which is produced by Teltech Entertainment of Toms River, New Jersey, will be produced and directed by Finkelman who will be joined by Unity veterans Ilya Lishinsky (musical production)and Mauricio Arenas (film cinematagrophy). New lyrics in both Yiddish and English were written for the song by Moti Ilowitz and Moshe Kravitzky.
“While we all daven for these boys to a certain extent we have all become oblivious to their plight,” explained Finkelman in an exclusive interview from Japan with VIN News. “We need to keep this on the front burner. These boys need both our donations and our tefilos.”
Finkelman was quick to point out that while he is hard at work finishing up his documentary on Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin, the two cases are really part of the same whole.
“In both the Rubashkin case and the case of the bochurim who are incarcerated in Japan, the punishment does not fit the crime. The Gemara tells us that if you daven for someone who has the same need as you, your tefillos are answered first, so I think that by helping other prisoners in need, it can have a positive impact on the Rubashkin case as well. In fact, I visited the boys in prison today and Zev Goldstein mentioned that not only did he write a letter to Rubashkin but he prays for him as well.”
Source: By Sandy Eller for VIN News
Japan. A strange and foreign land, geographically and ideologically. A country whose crime rate is exceptionally low due to its merciless treatment of criminals and even suspected criminals, whose penal system includes harsh labor camps and prisons. A place where two of Acheinu Bnei Yisroel are incarcerated for over two and half years through no fault of their own.
In March of 2008, three unsuspecting Israeli boys, residents of Bnei Brak; Yossi, then 17, Yaakov Yosef, then 19, and Yoel Zev, then 22; were asked by a member of their community with whom they were familiar to transport antiques to the Far East for business purposes, for which he would pay them $1,000.00 each. He arranged that the boys would stop in Amsterdam, where the antiques would be delivered to them, before taking a connecting flight to Tokyo, Japan.
Their liaison in Amsterdam delivered the “antiques” very close to their scheduled departure to Tokyo, and insisted that the boys use the three empty suitcases he had brought them, each equipped with a false bottom to protect the “expensive merchandise” they would be carrying. Not having time to reflect on the new developments, the boys quickly threw their personal belongings into the second set of suitcases, and, leaving their brand – new ones behind in the hotel room, dashed off to catch their flight.
Towards the end of the long flight to Narita International Airport, the boys were given immigrations forms to fill out. Not knowing any Japanese or English, they requested assistance from a stewardess aboard the flight. Upon landing at the airport, they were directed to a room where an immigrations officer could assist them in completing the only partially filled – out documents. The boys passed through immigrations, had their passports stamped, collected their luggage, and proceeded to the customs area. A customs officer noticed the false bottoms, and the boys confirmed that the suitcases did indeed contain false compartments to secure the expensive antiques they were transporting. Upon examination, the officials discovered $3.6 million dollars worth of narcotics. The boys, in a state of utter shock, slowly realized that they had been cruelly duped.
Yossi, being the only minor among the three, faced trial first in early 2009. The judge could not be convinced of his innocence and sentenced him to 5 – 8 years in prison, from which time already served could be deducted and an additional 1/3 could be subtracted for good behavior. After serving 10 ½ months in Japan, Yossi was transferred to the Rimonim prison in Beer Sheva due to a prison transfer agreement between Japan and Israel. There he is able to go home to his family once in a while for a period of 48 hours.
Meanwhile, the askonim involved were working feverishly to build the best defense team possible for the other two boys while toiling around the clock to alleviate their actual physical condition as well. By the time the trial of the second boy, Yaakov Yosef, took place, there was a major change in the position of the prosecutors, who admitted that it was impossible for the boys to have known that they were transporting drugs. Rather, they wished to build their case on grounds of negligence, claiming that once the boys received the false – bottomed suitcases, they should have suspected foul play.
Yaakov Yosef was sentenced to 6 years in prison, which was extraordinary in light of the fact that the prosecution requested a sentence of 13 years, and Japanese courts almost always hand down sentences of 90% or more. Askonim, together with the defense team, filed an appeal at the last possible moment before the deadline to prevent the prosecution from filing an appeal of their own, having been informed by sources that a transfer to Israel would be a long and drawn – out process during which Yaakov Yosef would be transferred to a prison labor camp rather than remain as a detainee in his current facility where the conditions are much easier. In an unprecedented concession to the defense team, the court agreed to allow Yaakov Yosef to remain in the Chiba detention center pending the outcome of the appeal instead of transferring him to the prison in Toyko where conditions would be much worse.
On Monday, November 1st, the appeal began. One of the key points brought up by the defense was the matter of the polygraph (lie detector) test which had been administered to all three boys by the prosecution, in which the result for all three was that they had not even the vaguest knowledge that they were carrying drugs in their suitcases. However, Ms. Suzuki, the woman who had administered the test, claimed in court that the test could not be relied upon 100%. She was refuted by the #1 polygraph expert in Japan and a top polygraph expert from the U.S. who testified that aside from the fact that the test is at least 97% accurate, it would be impossible to get three false results in one day, especially since the Japanese technology is one of the most advanced in this area. They supported their claim by quoting the foremost book on the subject, written by Profesor Gershon Ben-Shakhar, the very same book that Miss Suzuki relied upon. In their verdict, however, the lower court had made no mention of the entire subject, seemingly accepting the testimony of Miss Suzuki, who had proved herself a contradictory and unreliable witness. This was a glaring omission, as a verdict must explain the court’s decision on each point presented.
In addition to the matter of the polygraph test, defense lawyers also asked to present other witnesses and evidence that were either new or had not been allowed at the original trial. Despite the attorneys’ compelling arguments, the Tokyo High Court decided that it would not allow any further evidence or testimony, a very disturbing decision.
Following this development, the defense lawyers wasted no time and submitted strong documents regarding the polygraph evidence to the judges, including Professor Ben-Shakhar himself’s expert written opinion. A hearing was scheduled for December 2nd, the first day of Chanuka. After the judges entered the courtroom and the defense lawyers began their presentation, the presiding judge immediately announced that he would allow additional evidence and witnesses, including personal testimony by Professor Ben-Shakhar. This was a stunning reversal of direction by Judge Akira Kanaya, one of the many open manifestations of the Yad Hashem that the askonim have repeatedly experienced during the cases. Indeed, Yaakov Yosef himself said many months ago, “This year, on Chanuka, we will see big nissim!” Professor Ben-Shakhar’s testimony is scheduled for the end of January.
The first session of Yoel Zev’s trial, took place in July of this past summer. The prosecution presented only a single witness, one of the customs officers who checked the boys’ suitcases upon their arrival at the airport. He admitted that the boys were completely calm, further proof that they had no idea of what was in their luggage. The defense team presented as witness Mr. Michael Levine, a 40 year veteran of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency at JFK and Miami International Airports, who testified that the behavior of the boys was typical of “blind mules”, innocent and unwitting drug couriers. During his testimony, Levine, called “America’s top undercover cop for 25 years” by CBS news, showed how all the boys’ actions pointed to their total naivete, such as their traveling in a group, using their real passports, and going on the same line at customs.
Before the second session of the trial, which took place during the week of October 18th, the presiding judge, Judge Hiroshi Furuta, known to be a stringent hard-liner, was replaced by another judge, Judge Masanori Hodoko, who seemed extremely interested in the details of the case, including the boys’ background.
On the opening day of that segment of the trial, Rav Moshe Chaim Levi, mashgiach at the Satmar yeshiva in Bnei Brak where Yaakov Yosef and Yoel Zev had been students, testified for an hour and a half regarding the refined character of the two boys. He also told the court that the boys knew the one who had send them on their ill – fated mission as a former student of the yeshiva, and, taking into account the insulated environment of Bnei Brak, they had no reason to believe that he would mislead them in any way.
Yoel Zev himself was next to testify. In his testimony he reviewed the events of that fateful day, with the defense lawyers highlighting the fact that due to the language barrier, many of his original statements were misunderstood by the initial interpreters, who sometimes had to use a dictionary to assist them in their translation. Yoel Zev was also asked about sports and music, and it was clear that he had very little knowledge of the secular world.
The last witness to testify was Rabbi Moshe Dovid Niederman. Rabbi Niederman, the leader of the United Jewish Services of Williamsburg, gave a comprehensive historical narrative of the Satmar chassidus in general, and painted a clear picture of the insular nature of the Satmar community, particularly in Bnei Brak. He showed the judges an English – Yiddish dictionary, and pointed out that words such as drugs and narcotics are not to be found there at all.
Closing arguments were adjourned as the new judge agreed to take the time to further familiarize himself with all the aspects of the case. Defense attorneys also requested permission to present other evidence and witnesses, including Professor Ben-Shakhar, which the original judge did not allow. A hearing was scheduled for Wednesday, November 24th, which was attended by Rabbi Meilich Bindiger, personal secretary to Dayan Chaim Yosef Dovid Weis of Antwerp and Rabbi Aron Nezri, a London-based askan who is coordinating the defense. Dayan Weis, Rabbi Bindinger, and Rabbi Nezri have been at the forefront of the defense effort.
At the hearing, the judge announced that:
Regarding the admission of new evidence, he asked that the lawyers provide more information and proof that the evidence is admissible under Japanese law;Regarding a further witness, he instructed that the lawyer who interviewed the said witness provide him with further detail for consideration, and; He showed great interest in Professor Ben-Shakhar’s expert opinion, and agreed to reconsider the defense team’s request to admit it as well as Professor Ben-Shakhar himself as a live witness. The judge further requested that the defense team resubmit certain documents which he felt had been unfairly rejected by Judge Furuta. The next hearing is set for December 22nd, when the final decision will be made on these issues.
It is almost three years since this nightmare began. Askonim have made more that 20 trips to Japan as well as many trips to Eretz Yisroel, the U.S., and Holland. Sleep is but a word in the dictionary. The boys are suffering for all of us, but their emuna and bitachon is very strong. What is our part in all this? We must keep on being mispallel for Yaakov Yosef ben Raizel and Yoel Zev ben Mirel Risa Chava. This is the only way that this sad episode can reach a successful conclusion.
As we anxiously await good news on the situation of the two boys still trapped in Japanese prison cells, askonim toil tirelessly around the clock to ensure that all legal matters proceed in the most effective manner possible.
YAAKOV YOSEF BEN RAIZEL
On December 13th, a hearing was held in the Tokyo High Court regarding its decision on whether they would allow further evidence and/or witnesses in the appeal of Yaakov Yosef ben Raizel. Yaakov Yosef himself was present at the hearing, and looked well. Remembering how badly he had suffered on his last trip from the Chiba Detention Center to the Tokyo High Court, Rabbi Nezri asked that Mr. Ozawa, one of the attorneys on the defense team, request that Yaakov Yosef be given better treatment during the trip. Thankfully, the request was honored and the rope holding him was loosened, and he was given a bottle of water for the journey as well.
Bechasdei Hashem, the judges ruled that Professor Gershon Ben-Shakhar, the foremost polygraph expert in the world, would be allowed to testify. His testimony is scheduled for the 26th of January.
YOEL ZEV BEN MIREL RISA CHAVA
On December 17th, Mr. Mikaye, an attorney on Yoel Zev’s defense team, met some of the judges who are presiding on the case in a fifteen minute informal meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to stress the importance of admitting additional evidence and live witnesses. Mr. Mikaye stressed the significance of the polygraph issue, and the judge agreed that Professor Ben-Shakhar’s expert opinion would indeed be essential to the case. He will give his final decision on December 22nd as planned.
The clock is ticking, bringing us closer to the critical end stages. Let us increase our tefillos on behalf of Yaakov Yosef ben Raizel and Yoel Zev ben Mirel Risa Chava. This is only way to their ultimate salvation.
Jewish Music Superstars Film Benefit Video for Two Israelis Held in Japanese Prison
Heartfelt Plea for Freedom and Justice Filmed 2 ½ Weeks Before Catastrophic Tsunami Devastates Japan
Brooklyn, NY – In an effort to raise both funds and awareness for two Israeli young men who are still being held in a Japanese prison almost three years after unknowingly bringing drugs into the country, Danny Finkleman, producer of the Unity project to benefit Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin, has created another stunning music video, this one featuring two of the top names in Jewish music, superstars Shloime Daskal and Avraham Fried.
The Japan Song is a remake of the Dveykus 2 classic, In A Vinkele, later re-recorded as Tatte by Yaakov Shwekey, featuring all new lyrics by Moti Ilowitz and Moshe Kravitsky in both English and Yiddish. Filmed on two continents, much of the footage for the moving video was filmed at the Chiba Detention Center where the two are being held, only days before Japan was devastated by an earthquake-tsunami combination that claimed the lives of thousands.
The seven minute long video describes the plight of Yoel Zev Goldberg and Yaakov Yosef Greenwald, who are imprisoned in Japan after suitcases that they were carrying for someone else were found to contain drugs. The two, who passed polygraph tests, have long protested their innocence and a third young man, Yosef Bando, has already been released. Produced and directed by Finkelman in conjunction with Teltech Entertainment, The Japan Song is sponsored by the Aaron Teitelbaum Orchestra and Hitech Merchant Services, with musical production by Eli Lishinsky and Nir Graf and cinematography by Mauricio Arenas and De Grupo Films.
While filming in Japan, Daskal and Finkelman had the opportunity to spend thirty minutes with each of the two young men. Meeting them and spending time at the Chiba Detention Center left Daskal and Finkelman feeling even more inspired than ever to do whatever they could to help the pair.
“While I was impressed with the good nature of the Japanese people and their respect for us as Jews,” said Finkelman, “it was heartbreaking to realize that despite the fact that these two young men are imprisoned just a few feet away from each other, they are kept separated and have not spoken to each other for almost three years. While so many of us pray for the welfare of these two young men, it is important that we remember them both with prayers and the donations that are so desperately needed to fund their defense.”
Donations can be made at TheJapanSong.com, which also features the actual music video, song lyrics, information about the case and pictures of both the Chiba Detention Center and the recording sessions in both Japan and New York. Contributions can also be mailed to Ezras Rayim c/o Japan Boys, 17B Cedar Lane, Monsey, New York 10952.