Israel: Breaking up families for profit?

Orr Shalom
Marianne Azizi writes: 

I have witnessed with my own eyes children in Israel being removed from fit parents and placed into fostering.

Last week, two out of four children were removed from a couple. The eldest two were from a former marriage. A false claim was made regarding abuse, and the boy and girl were taken into an emergency centre. One of the children escaped. The court ignored the father’s request and ordered the children to undergo psychiatric assessments for a month, thereby removing them from a loving family. I heard the cries and tears of the children who just wanted to come home, and watched a father in acute distress helpless against social workers’ recommendations. If the family were so dangerous, why not remove all the children, not just half of them?

An emergency centre in Israel is the first port of call after a child has been taken from the parent. It is a small building with small rooms surrounded by fencing up to 5 metres high. The place is allegedly to protect the child. It is often on the pretext of taking the child for evaluation.

The centre receives 17,000 shekels (USD 4,393) a month, and the evaluation of the child is made by the staff of the centre. It could therefore be assumed that the staff would want the child to stay in the privatised centre. Stories abound of children being there for prolonged periods. The evaluation is normally psychological, psychiatric or just a social workers observation. Children as young as three are evaluated. It is shocking that children this age are assessed in such a way, then subsequently put on medication.

Every centre has a room which is akin to a padded cell. Children who “misbehave” are locked inside. Many testimonies have come from children who talk about their experiences.

Last week a 15-year-old child escaped, believing he had been at the centre for two years, when in fact it was three and a half years. Ultimately, a child is moved to a more open institution and then can be fostered to private organisations such as Orr Shalom, among others.

Also last week, a protest was held outside the Tel Aviv Arts centre where Orr Shalom were the hosts. The general manager endeavoured to talk to the activists, and showed genuine surprise at the allegations.

Here is the problem. In Israel social workers are feared. As previously reported, in divorce cases once the father is removed from the picture, it is strongly felt and believed that social workers then prey on vulnerable women.

I met a young Russian woman who had lost three of her children. A particular social worker was quoted as saying she would “follow her to the ends of the earth” should she ever have another child. The woman in question left her town of Kiryat Shmona and found refuge with her brother in Haifa on discovering her fourth pregnancy. She delivered the baby and within 48 hours the social worker came and took her child, telling her she’d kept her promise.

Dazed and in shock, the woman told her story to a human rights activist who proceeded to travel to Kiryat Shmona and legally demonstrated outside her home for four minutes and two seconds. Coincidentally, the next day social workers contacted the woman to tell her that suddenly there was a place for her to be with her baby. Great news, quickly followed by the usual charges placed on the activist, this time for harassment and an order to attend court with only one working day’s notice. Despite an appeal for a delay, the decision was made by two of the only three judges in the town.

Orr Shalom foster-parent recruitment meeting, Ashdod, 18 May 2015. The meeting descended into chaos after activist Moti Leybel challenged the organisers’ claim that in Israel no children are ever taken from their parents by social workers

On the evening of 18 May, at a public recruitment meeting for Orr Shalom, I tried to film the events as the activist and journalist Moti Leybel challenged the organisers’ claim that in Israel no children are removed from their parents without a judge’s order. It simply isn’t true. Hana Gan, the trapped Canadian woman, can testify that her children were first taken by social workers. Events at the meeting turned quite aggressive as someone actually tried to attack me and remove my camera. The questions asked certainly brought an unexpectedly violent reaction

Orr Shalom give 3000 shekels (USD 775) per month to each foster parent for taking a child. Of course, there is no doubt that they do help children in need. What is ignored or denied is the power of the social workers to remove children. If parents are so dangerous, why not remove all their children? Why cherry pick from a family and only take one or two? Why does Orr Shalom refuse to talk to those who have the evidence?

The latest report from the United Nations Convention on the Right of the Child questioned Israel on the number of private institutions for children in the country. In fact, there are no government institutions at all. There are no procedures in place to return children to their parents once they are taken. It is a one way ticket.

After over a month of witnessing bereft parents who have lost one or more of their children to social workers, the question must be asked: how much profit is being made by these institutions?

I continue to hear the despair of parents who describe the country as a modern holocaust. Who will help the stolen children of Israel? The foreign funds are definitely not going to the ordinary people here.

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