Israeli pensioner escapes from Israel after the “welfare” authorities try to kidnap her traumatised daughter
Marianne Azizi writes:
Devorah and her husband Ari worked hard all their lives, paid their taxes and looked forward to a good retirement. But a neighbour dispute three years ago turned their lives into a living hell.
The neighbour wanted to buy their apartment at a cheap price, so he set about damaging their property and posting warning signs on it, warning potential buyers against making a purchase. When this did not work, the neighbour called the police and social workers and made false claims.
The nightmare of a bad neighbour paled in comparison to what would happen over the next three years.
Deborah and Ari have three adult children – two sons and a daughter. The daughter, Shirley (pictured above), aged 25, suffers from depression.
Shirley was forcibly taken by police and a social worker who told her that they had come to the house to find the bodies of her two brothers whom they claimed her mother had killed. She was seized by the police and taken to a psychiatric ward where, despite the efforts of her parents, she was incarcerated and diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
Shirley was put on medication, which increased over the year until her diagnosis became schizophrenia and epilepsy.
The psychotropic drugs pumped into her caused horrendous side effects, including liver damage, to the extent that eventually she became unable to hold a cup in her hands. Her parents fought tooth and nail for her. The strain broke their longstanding marriage but they stuck together in their battle for Shirley.
After an agonising year, Shirley returned home, a shadow of her former self. Her mother weaned her off the medication, but her trauma had become full blown. She became afraid of strangers and wouldn’t leave the house.
Afraid of every phone call and knock at the door, Devorah lived in a constant state of fear and anxiety for her daughter.
It looked as if it would take a long time for Shirley to recover from her state-sponsored ordeal, but before anyone could find out the “welfare” authorities decided to resume their harassment. In March this year, they applied for guardianship of Shirley, making a false claim to the judge that she was imprisoned in her home.
Terrified, the family moved from their home and hid in another town in Israel, giving their address to no one and living as fugitives in their own country. Afraid of every phone call and knock at the door, Devorah lived in a constant state of fear and anxiety for her daughter.
Devorah was ashamed to tell her story but agreed to a video testimonial last year. The idea that a grown woman could be forcibly removed from her home and family was unbelievable. Tales of young children being kidnapped by the state are common in Israel, but in this instance the victim was an adult.
Devorah knew time was running out. She was desperate to close the case, and changed her lawyer to a professional expert in juvenile cases. When I met her in early April she was trying her best to minimise her paranoia. Shirley was also in trauma – and the idea of returning to the doctors and social workers who had created her problems wasn’t an option. The request made by the social workers in court was that Shirley’s mind and body should be owned by the state and the social workers. Although they had not seen her for over a year, she was on record, and most Israelis know that if you are on the records of the social services there is no escape.
The day Devorah dropped her lawyer, she told me that she feared a call from the social workers. Initially, I didn’t believe her, but she was correct. Within a couple of hours, the hounding and harassment began. I was astonished at the accuracy of her instincts. There was no option left. Shirley and her parents had to leave Israel. But how would Shirley manage the journey? She was so traumatised that she was afraid to go out of the house. A trip through the airport, or even a simple one in the car, filled her with dread. This is a supremely intelligent girl with a high IQ, but she was terrified of seeing a social worker.
Knowing that the clock was ticking, there was nothing left to do but flee. No day would be the right day, but every day lost was nearer to losing Shirley to the welfare authorities and other state institutions forever. Their new family lawyer filed a request to close the case, based on no new information, and to inform the social worker to contact him only. The social worker immediately called the parents repeatedly, telling them that they had made a mistake and accusing them of being uncooperative. She demanded they come for an assessment. The calls came regularly, and other strange bogus calls were made to try to establish the family’s current address. It was like being trapped in the worst kind of horror movie. Devorah talked to her sons, and explained the danger Shirley was in. They were shocked, but finally realised she needed to leave Israel for her own safety.
One day in June, it was the day to go, ready or not. Shirley was in real fear, and didn’t want to leave the house. We managed over a day to get her into a car, travel to Beit Shan, cross the border into Jordan, and travel to a hotel in Amman. No words can describe the difficulties involved. After one night, arrangements were made for the family to fly to a new life away away from Israel.
Meanwhile, the lawyer’s request to close the case was ignored. Judge Shiri Hyman ruled that every member of the family must attend a hearing and be seen individually without their lawyer. The lawyer appealed but the appeal was rejected, despite every member of the family saying they would not attend the hearing without their family lawyer. The case, held on 17 July, was to be a surprise to the social workers, their legal representative and the judge. The case was drawn out for over an hour as the social workers and their lawyer were unable to accept that their “catch” was gone.
Among the questions asked in court were:
Q: Where has she gone?
A: Outside the country.
Q: “That’s too broad, too big, where exactly? How did she leave?
A: Like most people, she flew away and chooses not to return.
Q: We demand to know which country..Get the father in here.
Threats of financial penalties were made if the father didn’t enter the courtroom. He was unable to speak and sat, head in hands, completely traumatised. The case rambled on and on, as demands and threats were made by the welfare authorities’ lawyer.
Shirley’s lawyer repeatedly explained that Shirley had been traumatised by her ordeal at the hands of the welfare authorities and by the drugs forced on her. The welfare authorities claimed that they needed to have guardianship of her. The outcome was that Shirley and her family had to provide a letter from the country in which they now reside, signed by another lawyer, to show that Shirley doesn’t want to return to Israel, with photographic evidence to show that she is indeed abroad. The welfare authorities’ lawyer claimed the right to force the family to return and penalise them by stopping their pensions and imposing other financial sanctions. Shirley’s lawyer fought for her right and that of her family to choose not to live in Israel without having to meet such stringent requirements. She is not a criminal, and has moved with her family to a new life.
After the case Shirley’s lawyer made the following statement:
Today’s case in Kiryat Bialik was initiated by social workers to appoint a guardian to a 28-year-old woman and to force-feed her with psychiatric medicines against her will.
Shirley Rimmer has been tormented by social workers Suzie Iluz of Kiryat Ono and Bihaa Greenbaum of Kiryat Ata for three years since a neighbour complained that she looked dishevelled and rarely went out.
She was forced into a closed psychiatric facility, Tel Hashomer, for evaluation. Dr Shlomit Zwikel Hatzani diagnosed her with OCD, then schizophrenia, general psychosis, delusions and catatonia. After receiving more than 10 anti-psychotic drugs, nothing worked. She was released after three months when a psychiatric committee declared her not dangerous and not suicidal and with Shirley’s stated express wish to go home. She was incarcerated once more against her will by the social workers.
Dr Zwikel Hatzani, unhappy that the committee had overruled her diagnosis, contacted the social workers and wrote a recommendation to appoint a trusteeship. The Israel Centre for Legal Guardianship, a business run by retired social workers who take control of disabled peoples’ property, in exchange for a 10 per cent commission to administer their business and make decisions about their lives, including decisions regarding medical treatment.
The social workers launched the petition to appoint an external guardian to “take care” of Shirley, and make a legal decision on her behalf whether to continue to administer psychiatric drugs against all these diagnosis. The woman and her parents refused, but Judge Shiri Hyman ordered all members of the family, including two brothers who live 150 kilometres away, to appear before the social worker and respond to any question, without the right to counsel or any other supporting person. This order was made ex parte at the “secret” request of the social worker, who is also the petitioner in the case.
Once the girl and her mother realised that Judge Hyman would adopt whatever report the social workers write, they simply took a taxi to the airport and left Israel permanently.
To try to snatch an adult girl is an unusual case. This usually happens to old people, or rich troubled youths, whereby their income is seized under guardianship. But in this case there is no money to be had, nor any reason whatsoever that a woman suffering from chronic depression cannot be allowed to leave Israel, where her trauma took place. This is one of the most disturbing cases I have seen of the thousands I handle fighting social worker kidnapping practices in Israel.
After Devorah left Israel – the country she had lived in all her life – she didn’t look back once. Since then I have been in constant touch with her, and I see pictures of Shirley, who is on the mend and getting better single day, knowing that for the rest of her life no social worker from Israel will ever be able to get their hands on her again.