Keren interrogation, Part I

I changed the title; the article is a transcript of the interrogation and was leaked to Maariv. The hyper-modest mother of 12 is in jail after being indicted for child abuse. Introduction is here. Part II.

By Shmuel Mittelman and Ami ben David.


The detailed statements of the mother in her interrogation, exposed here for the first time, shed light not only on her allegedly twisted relationship with her children, but allow a glimpse into her fanatically religious world that combines a strange blend of violence and incessant prayer.

B., 54, became famous as the “mother from Beit Shemesh” or the “black mother” because of the black clothes covering her entire body, hair and face. According to the police and prosecution, she shockingly abused six of her twelve children, leaving them physically and emotionally scarred until today.

The indictment served against her in the Jerusalem district court, via the prosecution’s lawyer Dan Bahat, accuses her of no fewer than 25 counts of serious attacks and three counts of abuse of a minor. All this, presumably, is in the name of her extreme religious belief that it is the appropriate way to educate her children. “Batsheva hit Solomon, and afterward he became a successful child,” claimed the mother in defense of her approach, and admonished her investigators.

She hit six of her children and didn’t prevent incest

The event leading to the opening of the investigation happened in early February after, according to the police allegation, B. locked her small son D, who suffers from a mental handicap, in the yard of her Bet Shemesh home for many hours, wearing short clothes, and withheld food and drink from him for many hours despite his screams. The neighbors called the police, who arrived with social workers. The social workers removed the child from the house and placed him in a dormitory [this usually refers to an institution that cares for children in something similar to a home setting].

During the initial investigation the mother assured he police: “You took him on the basis of lies that you invented and believe. My prayers do not return empty-handed, and whoever took the child will pay dearly for it.”

During the investigation the mother was accused of hitting six of her children with a belt, a stick, a rolling pin, and an electric cable, and of cutting the hair of two of her girls as a punishment. In one case she extinguished a match on the chest of one of the children, and regularly poured water on several children to wake them in the morning. In a few instances she refused to allow the children to come home, and they had to eat at friends and neighbors. Similarly, the mother is accused of tying the child D., who suffers from a handicap, by his hands and legs and leaving him outside for a long time.

The judge had to be satisfied with a photo

The police investigators didn’t know how to relate to B. She wrapped herself in no fewer than 12 dresses in the height of the heat, and covered her face with a veil. The prison doctor asked to check her, but she refused to undress. Interrogation by men? Absolutely not, she indicated. I won’t expose my face to a strange man.

Similarly in the courtroom, during the extension of her remand, she refused to allow Judge Aaron Farkash to look at her. “But to hold a deliberation, I must see the person opposite me,” he explained to her lawyer, Vered Berger of public defense. “It won’t help, Your Honor, she is not prepared to expose her face,” she replied, “even if everyone but you leaves the room.” With no choice, in a rare move, the judge was presented with a picture of B’s face as photographed by the prison service, to let him know who the anonymous woman is.

The police sent an experienced investigator, Hagit Nosri, who did her best to extract answers to the serious suspicions. In a[nother] rare move the interrogation was carried out with the mother writing her answers by hand and passing them to the investigator.

She denied most of the accusations, admitted to a few, tried to justify some of them, rebuked her listeners, showed pride in the strength of her prayers and her mission, and outlined her “educational” philosophy. In one of the conflicts between them [B] even reprimanded the female officer for “wearing very tight shirts, and that’s not okay (zeh lo beseder).”

The door is locked after midnight

The transcripts of the interrogation expose a woman with a zealous religious faith, who cares for a variety of children, each with his or her own problems and went through a crisis after difficult pregnancies. Under these circumstances, presumably, she lost control over the children, was beset by attacks of rage, and latched on to twisted methods of powerful punishments and violence in order to try and return order and display authority.

At the beginning of the interrogation the investigator asked B for her reaction to the accusations, that she and her husband regularly hit the children, prevented them from eating and sleeping at home, and knew about the sexual transgressions that occurred among the children. The mother replied angrily: “The charges are a cruel lie. They never existed. You have no proof. Every mother can give a slap from time to time for educational purposes.”

The mother also related to claims that she prevented her children from returning home at night. “I prevented the children from sleeping at home a few times, after they came home from the soccer field at 2 in the morning,” she said. “I told that that the door will be locked after midnight. After sleeping outside twice, they stopped arriving so late. I have never starved my children. At every meeting with them they love to tell about the delicious dishes I prepared for them.”

[I once heard singer Yehoram Gaon tell a similar story on his radio program. He once returned five minutes late for his midnight curfew and found the door locked. He learned his lesson. The difference is the context (and the age of the children involved); did the parents employ this extreme measure as a way of teaching responsibility in an overall loving environment, or is it part of a series of punitive measures meant to instill fear and demand absolute authority?]


  1. Garnel Ironheart says

    I take back my earlier remark. She’s not just haloperidol-deficient. She needs electro-convulsive therapy without sedation.

  2. A pretty obvious example that just because you produce children doesn’t make you a parent.

  3. Lion of Zion says

    “I will also add that this is what happens when you try to apply verses in the Torah directly to everyday situations”
    i think this mode of application of text, including as it pertains to corporal punishment, is not limited to nutjobs like keren bruriah.
    “Hashem should have rachmaniut.”
    on the children, yes. not on the mother. probably not on the father either. perhaps not on the neighbors as well.

  4. mominisrael says

    LOZ, “not limited to nutjobs like keren bruriah”
    Unfortunately correct.

  5. Lion of Zion says

    “With no choice, in a rare move, the judge was presented with a picture of B?s face as photographed by the prison service, to let him know who the anonymous woman is.”
    why is this so rare? what is done with with devout muslim women?

  6. mominisrael says

    LOZ–don’t know. Good question. But I am not sure that there are so many Arab women in Israel who walk around completely veiled, *and* who are indicted *and* refuse to uncover their faces *and* get away with it.

  7. Whoa is all I can say. She is obviously disturbed. From what I read the husband is absent. Hashem should have rachmaniut.

  8. Terribly disturbing. I understand locking the door, but in an environment of chinuch, not just punishment for the sake of power or whatever she is seeking. This is craziness.

  9. Rachmono l’tzlan that such a woman was inflicted upon young children and allowed to damage them. And can the husband be any less culpable, to live in that house and not see anything? And please, please, whatever else we do, can we stop referring to her as frum, because that is not any religion I can recognize that she is claiming to practice.
    And I ask myself how it is humanly possible that with that many children out in the world and with her living in a populated area that no neighbor, no teacher, no rav noticed what was going on, noticed the abnormality of her ramblings and preachings and did nothing to step in and protect the family. There are a lot of guilty people involved here besides this demented creature.

  10. SIGH. It’s all just so horrible. I hope those children are getting treatment so that they can have a chance at living normal lives.

  11. Such an interesting patient (and she will be, no doubt, someone’s patient).
    Disturbed? She’s not perceptably unhappy.
    Different? Very.
    Docs like me can feel her history, would stake our houses that she’s a survivor of child abuse.
    But you never know. And you don’t know, either, her multiple diagnoses, based upon this interview, not if you’re a frumer yid.
    Because we wouldn’t dare say that we know for sure that her prayers are not the ones that have averted terrorism in Bet Shemesh. There are those who would say, in fact, regarding this woman,
    The greater the tzaddik, the greater the yetzer. Such a temptation to think this.
    And yet, does she love? Not like she should. Not like tzaddikim love. So, like everyone else, improving herself in this regard is her number one goal for therapy.
    What I wouldn’t give to treat her.

  12. Ari-Rachmanut on all of us that we stop seeing such terrible stories of abuse. These stories are just terrible to read. The children will need a refuah shleimah from the diseased home they grew up in.
    And, my goodness, the second read shows just what an ego-maniac the wife is. Seems everything is about her.

  13. [quote]”I will also add that this is what happens when you try to apply verses in the Torah directly to everyday situations”
    i think this mode of application of text, including as it pertains to corporal punishment, is not limited to nutjobs like keren bruriah.[/quote]
    Oh, dear….I set out to do research about some local (i.e., US)& fanatically religious (this time, Protestant Christian) nutjobs who have been abusing their children. And I find this.
    After I regain my composure, I will add these children to the list that this particular Christian woman prays for each day….
    and continue to wonder why it is, that these sorts of people so often seem to find it necessary to cloak themself in religious faith…. 🙁

  14. What a sad, sad story.