Update November 29, 2012: This article in Tablet Magazine examines the evidence and concludes that there is little evidence for pedophile activity, much less a ring. Panic in Jerusalem
Update: Yisrael Hayom report
I was planning to write a light post today, about unusual Israeli baby names, but unfortunately that post will wait. If you are looking for inspiring, humorous posts I ask for your patience–they will come.
Instead I have translated an article that is difficult to read.
The following article by Yossi Haziz appeared yesterday in Hebrew in JerusalemNet, a division of Ynet. It summarizes the discussion of the case in a special session of a Knesset committee.
The dimensions of the pedophilia ring, in the heart of one of the haredi communities in central Jerusalem, were exposed today in a Knesset committee in all of its terrible breadth. More than 100 small children underwent severe physical and sexual abuse by about 30 adult suspects, and all in a small and closed neighborhood. About half of the suspects were arrested, but most continue to live and operate in the neighborhood without interference.
In a choked voice and with tears in their eyes, the mothers described their children who were sexually abused and the shock that their small children experienced (and some continue to experience) over more than a year. Almost none of the participants in this special session of the committee on the rights of children remained impassive, including representatives of the police “who have seen and hear everything,” upon hearing the chilling testimonies of what has been described as “the largest pedophile case since the founding of the state.”
The dimensions of the case are not fully realized. More than 100 children were sexually and physically abused by nearly 30 suspects, and all this happened in a “nature reserve” of no more than 500 square meters, in the center of a small haredi neighborhood in the heart of Jerusalem. The terror that continues even today, even after the authorities have entered the picture. Even after some of the suspects have been arrested (one committed suicide, one fled the country), the traumatized parents feel helpless that they can’t protect their children, even within their buildings.
And the testimonies, too difficult to bear: A, a mother of four children—all of whom were attacked, some more than once—tells that until her children learned not to approach the door of a particular resident, another one from a different apartment attacked them. G, mother of seven, tells with tears in her eyes how she twice “missed”‘ the arrival of the school bus—the two times that her children became victims of the suspects, a few meters from her home.
The children have experienced every possible type of abuse and terror, like 7-year-old girl who saw the rape of her younger neighbor. In some cases the suspects even tied the hands and legs of the victims and placed a knife near their necks. In order to ensure that no one would tell, the suspects scared the children with a big dog that will “eat anyone who tells,” or through lighting a bonfire in the yards of the buildings, where they would ”throw anyone who tells.”
All of the children are cared for by the welfare authorities. But the authorities don’t have the means to correct the damage. Most of the children don’t go out of the house except to school. Some even refuse to go to the synagogue for fear of meeting the suspects, who walk around freely without interference.
They[the parents] turned to the police—and were disappointed.
The suspects are adults, who are not considered normative, also within the norms of haredi society. Most live alone, in apartments they received through inheritance, in the neighborhood where they have lived all their lives. This is a closed neighborhood, that is not used to “hanging out” their dirty laundry, but in light of such shocking events all of the social codes have been breached. With great courage, and the backing of the rabbis, the parents turned to the authorities and issued complaints, and despite the difficulty—cooperated fully.
But here they were greatly disappointed, as described by D., a mother whose 5-year-old was repeatedly abused: “The investigators presented the girl with blurred pictures of the suspects, and afterward the children’s investigator claimed that her testimony was “problematic” and “not reliable.” Not long ago, in the neighborhood, she let out a terrible scream and pointed to the man who hurt her, who stood meters from us, and even called his name. So what else do the police want?!! Why are these criminals still wandering around the yard??”
The Knesset session was headed by head of the committee Zevulun Orlev and took place in the presence of MKs (Knesset members) Uri Maklev and Orli Levi-Avekasis, along with representatives of the law, welfare, and justice departments. The testimonies were delivered only after removing video cameras and voice-recording devices from members of the press.
Ravit Zamir, a social worker from the Jerusalem municipality, reports, “We are talking about one of the worse cases I have seen in more than 20 years of work. This case has been known for a year, but only last summer did we begin to understand its terrible dimensions. There are families with 6 and 7 children who have been injured. Again and again we accompany, and provide treatment for, every child and family who has been injured. We have conducted over 100 interrogations by investigators, with dozens more ahead. We are talking about world-class terror.”
The police representative in the discussion, commander of investigations chief superintendent Shmulik ben Amos notes that ” a special investigative team was formed that deals only with this issue. The police are not trying to conserve in their efforts. But one must understand that this is a complicated and complex investigation. We have brought a community officer into the neighborhood, in order to increase the feeling of security. We are talking about a number of perpetrators who live in the neighborhood and it’s known that in some cases they worked as a team. A number have been arrested. Others have been arrested and released but the investigation into them continues. A few findings have been gathered from raids by the police into their homes and another round of arrests is expected soon,” said Ben Amos and added: “Both as an officer and as a father, I am shocked and I identify with the pain of the parents. One must understand that there is difficulty in getting to a particular level of testimony against the suspects in order to make it possible to issue an indictment. The difficulty comes from investigating children and determining the “level of reliability” of their testimony. We are and continue to make efforts, with intention to widen the circle of arrests.”
“The worst case of pedophilia in the history of Israel”
These facts do not comfort the parents. Even after the end of the discussion, the mothers approached the MKs with pleas to do everything in their power to ensure the peace of their children in the neighborhood.
“The authorities are not convinced of the breadth of this occurrence,” said attorney Eitan Lehman, who represents the parents.” There is a misconception that pedophiles work alone, and the police are continuing to say this despite the fact that the indictment received by prosecutors had 6-7 people in the same room in the neighborhood, who abused a child. This was an exceptional situation, the most serious of any in all of the history of pedophilia in Israel. They needed to recruit the best experts, including computer experts.” By this Lehman refers to the fact that many of the acts were filmed by the suspects, and shown to the children during further abusive acts.
Head of the committee, Zevulun Orlev, said that ” one can’t make peace with the fact that justice has not been served to the criminals and that the children of the neighborhood are still exposed to the continuation of abuse.”
A.L., a neighborhood resident whose child was a victim of abuse, said as he left the hall in pain: “Because we are talking about a haredi neighborhood in Jerusalem, the media has not come to investigate and to protect us. We saw how the media acted in the case of the “Corrido brothers” (a pair of pedophiles living in Haifa). We have no way to protect our children even within our buildings. Most of the families are living hand-to-mouth, yet we still came out to struggle. But we have the feeling that nothing will help us.”
I asked Amanda Elkohen, a Nachlaot resident, to share her comments. She says:
There aren’t enough Charaedi Therapists in the whole country to deal with all the victims here in a timely manner. Most of the kids’ first language is Yiddish, not Hebrew. Also, we as a neighborhood will be setting up a shadowing program to follow the largest threat (Skippy) 24/7 if we get enough volunteers. Anyone interested in participating can contact me (rabbiswife at gmail.com). The idea is not to drive him into another community to make new problems, but to deal with it internally.
Guest post: Were the Nachalaot Parents Negligent?
This article has many more details: Yisrael Hayom report Nachalaot pedophile case.