Wednesday, March 26, 2008
What About Israel's Children?
I was 11 years old when Joel Steinberg beat his 7-year old adopted daughter Lisa to death. It was news that made headlines for years, and Lisa Steinberg TZ"L became an icon for child abuse victims in the United States. As I grew older, I followed the case and was horrified when Joel Steinberg was up for parole. How could child abusers - who murdered their children - ever be up for parole?
Sometimes, I read the Jerusalem Post online edition and have been horrified by a series of articles written by Rebecca Anna Stoil. On March 14th, she wrote a piece about an American Charedi couple, recent Olim from America living in the Wolfson Towers, whose offenses of child abuse were deemed "worst child abuse case ever seen". Burns, whip marks, children being locked up and tortured by monsters. This was followed up a few days later by the arrest of a couple in Beit Shemesh whose offenses were just as bad. Allegations of incest stemmed from the abuse, which were allegedly reported to the Rabbis who told the older victims to "never discuss it with anyone." This made me sick.
Who is taking care of Israel's children? According to another article by Stoil, there are 6 case workers for 1000 cases. That is one of the most shocking numbers I've heard in years! But where is the public outrage? Where are the parents organizing marches to protect these children? I saw teachers here for WEEKS with signs and horns and banners protesting their work situation, where are they now? Do they not see what's in front of them in schools? If it doesn't affect their pocketbook, their home, their community, their lives, do they not care? Do we think that this only happens in the Charedi community? And, since we aren't all Charedi, it doesn't pertain to us?
Are we once again just going to bury our heads in the sand and try to ignore something that happens in Jewish homes too?
Why are we silent?
I also watch Israel's version of SuperNanny every Tuesday night. Sometimes I struggle with the Hebrew, which Pidgeon helps explain, but I get the gist of things really well. Last night, during the beginning parts of the program, I watched the 30 year old Father slap his daughter on the hand numerous times. This isn't the first time parents have hit children on the show, and sometimes the parents defend the action by saying that "it's a light hit" and it's always done on places like "the hand, the tusch, etc." I was recently informed, however, that Israel has a law against hitting children. Even the "light hit" is illegal and parents could be arrested if caught.
Let me say this clearly, to those who read my blog and do not know me, I am not a parent yet. P"G, I hope to be one! I empathize with people who are parents, who deal with frustrating children related issues ever single day. But I do not believe that hitting children is the answer. Ever. I believe there are other ways to discipline children. My sisters have children and with all their cuteness, they still manage to push the envelope daily. But both of them discipline without ever raising a hand. And, they have managed to be successful in using other means of teaching children what they can and cannot do, how they should and should not behave.
I believe hitting from a place of anger is not just morally wrong but is Halachically wrong. I feel it's as big of a sin as eating a piece of pork. And, you can read this as a parent and say that I just don't know what I'm talking about, that I just don't understand because I haven't been there yet. You can say I have no right to judge, and that's your right. But just because I'm not a parent yet, doesn't mean I don't know what I'm talking about.
At first, I felt this blog post would be my only way to respond to this terrible situation. But, I think I can do more, I just don't know what it is yet. I'm open to any ideas or suggestions. I'd be the first person standing outside of the Jerusalem District child investigation office with a sign and a bullhorn if I thought it would help. I'd be blazing up the phone lines calling every single Rabbi and preeminent Halachic authority in the Country to ask about the lack of response to this issue, if I thought it would make a difference. I would launch an aggressive PR campaign and contact every single media outlet in the Country if I thought that would help.
But who else will be there with me? One voice defending the thousands of Israel's child abuse victims is not enough.
Will you join me in this protest?