But it is the one [homeowner] who has never been seen who commands the most attention: Moammar Kadafi, Libyan leader and lord of a multimillion-dollar mansion that flies Libya's flag and sits next door to one very peeved Orthodox Jewish rabbi. Rarely has the stone-walled structure, with expansive grounds, pond and swimming pool, been the placid retreat the Libyan government envisioned when it paid $1 million for it in 1982, six years before Libyan agents blew up Pan Am Flight 103.C'mon, this can't miss as a situation for a sit-com: Michael Jackson's rabbi and an attention-starved exiled Arab tyrant squabble over their backyard fence in suburban New Jersey. Then, the rabbi's arms dealer nephew, Efraim Diveroli, has to move in with his uncle as part of his parole and he gets into wacky international intrigue with the Kaddafi Kids.
The estate, called Thunder Rock, has been a flash point for years for local protests, most recently in 2009 when Kadafi lost a battle to erect his traveling Bedouin tent on the lawn during a U.S. visit. But never has Thunder Rock's fate been as uncertain as now, with fresh State Department sanctions targeting Libyan property and a renewed uproar over the home's tax-exempt status in the state with the country's highest property taxes.
"This is a man who blows up airliners!" said the rabbi next door, Shmuley Boteach, who complains that the green Libyan flag flapping in the breeze is the first thing he sees each morning through his bedroom window. "I have a deep-seated loathing of tyranny, tyrants, dictators, people who brutalize their citizenry. And Kadafi hits the top of the list."
To be fair, a U.S. flag also flies from a pole outside Thunder Rock, and for all his complaining about the neighbors, the Los Angeles-born Boteach has been known to stir up controversy himself. The self-described relationship expert raised eyebrows in the Orthodox community for his close friendship with Michael Jackson when the pop star was facing allegations of child sex abuse, and for advice books such as "The Kosher Sutra" and "Kosher Sex: A Recipe for Passion and Intimacy."
Even Boteach admits that his relentless drive to oust his neighbors has gained him a reputation as a nuisance among some local leaders, including some of his friends.