Sunday, March 19, 2017

A plea for justice

My daughter Malki at 14, leaving for an outing
with friends. She was murdered a year later.
I had anticipated that by now we would have great news to share, namely, that the Knesset Ministers Committee for Legislation passed the bill regarding in- community living and personal aid baskets for people with disabilities. 

Instead, Bizchut has reported that, while the committee convened last Tuesday, it deferred the vote on that bill to an unspecified date. But don't despair. As Bizchut explained, this is actually good news. That's because the reason for the postponement was that the ministers want to learn more about the bill and its economic implications before a vote. 

Bizchut believes that its well-received "Make Room" campaign (see the video here), the Neve Ha'irus scandal (click here) and all the emails that were sent to those ministers (see my blog post on that) contributed to this decision. 

In addition, Bizchut is convinced that the ministers were swayed by its new survey results (here) which show that the bill's plan will reduce costs of care for people with disabilities by some 20%.

On another front, however, there is major news to share.

Ever since our prime minister executed the catastrophic Shalit Deal in 2011, my husband and I have suffered the pain of watching one of the convicted terrorists released, our Malki's murderer, Ahlam Tamimi, enjoy the bliss of freedom, marriage and hero worship by her Muslim fans. 

In early 2012, my husband went to Washington to meet with a group of senior Department of Justice officials and to ask for Tamimi to be brought up on charges in the United States. Our daughter was a US citizen, and the Koby Mandell Act requires US authorities in such situations to go after the terrorists wherever they are and bring them to court to face US justice. He brought along a video of me speaking and screened it to attendees at the meeting since I was unable to go. He told me later it had a strong, visible impact.

During the five years that followed, we have met and corresponded with some of those people as well as with FBI agents all of whom expressed determination and eagerness to bring Tamimi to justice. But they never divulged any information about their efforts or results. Those repeated frustrating exchanges were another form of torture for us. We had begun to despair of ever hearing any encouraging news.

Two weeks ago, however, they made contact with us to set up a meeting in Jerusalem for last week. This took place and they finally did some divulging. Big time.

We learned that they have been have been making vigorous efforts in secret to have Tamimi extradited ever since sealed charges were filed with a US court in 2013. The obstacle is clear: Tamimi lives in Jordan where she was born, where most of her family lives and where the vast majority of the population call themselves Palestinians. The government of Jordan does not want to see her extradited. Our understanding is they are not co-operating with DoJ’s efforts. 

Tamimi, a convicted murderer living free in Jordan
is my daughter's killer
At this point, and in view of what we have just learned, we are urging everybody and anybody who might be in a position to sway the two governments - the US and Jordan - to press for Tamimi's extradition. 

Just to remind you: this is the woman who boasted that she deliberately selected her target - the Sbarro pizzeria in the heart of Jerusalem - for maximum damage to women and children; that she then transported the bomb to East Jerusalem by taxi, and then within Jerusalem proceeded on foot with him (the human bomb) to the door of her target. And finally, who carefully instructed her weapon on how and when to detonate. She specified that he wait fifteen minutes to allow her ample time to escape unscathed.

She confessed in court to all of the above.

One year after her conviction, while interviewed in an Israeli prison, Tamimi was recorded smiling when she learned that eight of her sixteen victims had been children - not the three she had presumed. It was a smile of the darkest evil. 

The Jordanian king speaks volumes to western media about his battle against terrorism and desire for justice. But his harboring of this unrepentant mass murderer - and vocal inciter to more terrorism - reflects his true sentiments. 

It is incumbent on every goverment dealing with him to make it clear: there will be no trade or arms agreements without the extradition of Tamimi.

Israel is one such country. Only last month our government announced that it had 
"quietly begun exporting natural gas to Jordan after two Jordanian companies – Arab Potash and Jordan Bromine – were connected to Israel’s national pipeline network. The deliveries to the two companies, which operate plants on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea, began in January, but all the sides involved opted to keep a low profile because of the political sensitivities in Jordan about doing business with Israel. To keep the Israeli side at arm's length, the gas is technically being sold to the Jordanians by an American company." [Haaretz, March 2, 2017]

The full original of this FBI Most Wanted poster
is here on the FBI website
It appears that Israeli officials are saying Israel's "hands are tied behind its back" in the matter of Tamimi's extradition. 

I think this is nonsense. It only means that our government has no interest in any involvement. It would rather enjoy a smooth and lucrative trade relationship with Jordan unencumbered by the Tamimi issue. It would like us all to forget Netanyahu's catastrophic Shalit Deal. It strives to erase the outrageous travesty of justice and mortal dangers that deal embodied - dangers that have since been realized in the murders committed by terrorists released in the Shalit Deal [see "Palestinians freed in Shalit deal killed 6 Israelis since 2014", Times of Israel, July 20, 2015] 

Untold other attacks have likely been committed by terrorists whom Tamimi herself incited to murder in her social media exhortations to her Muslim fans.

While the challenge is overwhelming, we intend to fight for Tamimi's extradition to the US until that goal is reached. 

Please help us any way you can.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

My de-institutionalization request: a postscript

The Knesset, Israel's parliament
I wanted to add something to "De-institutionalization of people with disabilities: here's something we can do", my blog post from March 8.

I have copied below the personal version of the letter sent by my husband and me - the one that Bizchut is urging us all to send to the Cabinet Ministers who are members of the the Legislative Committee.

The draft bullet-points of that letter and the email addresses of the relevant Ministers appear in my previous post.

לכבוד השר
הצעת החוק לדיון בוועדת שרים לענייני חקיקה

לבת שלנו, אלישבע רוט, בת 21, יש פיגור  פיזי וקוגניטיבי  חמור ביותר. היא גם סובלת מאפילפסיה בלתי נשלטת [intractible epilepsy]. היא רתומה לכסא גלגלים ולא מדברת.

אלישבע חיה אתנו וזקוקה לטיפול סביב השעון.

מאוד חשובים לה גם טיפולים פרא רפואיים בכדי למנוע נסיגה נוספת בתיפקודה.

בהתחלת שנת הלימודים הנוכחית נותרה אלישבע ללא שום מסגרת מתאימה אחרי 14 שנה במערכת משרד החינוך. ביקרנו בשלש המסגרות היומיות בעירינו שהמליצה עליהם העובדת הסוציאלית  בבית ספרה. כולם עשו עלינו רושם מאוד שלילי.

אין אופציות אחרות בשביל אלישבע חוץ ממוסד סגור כמו "עלה". את ה"פתרון" הזה אנחנו שוללים נמרצות.

וכך, מכיוון שאנו אוהבים את אלישבע ומסרבים לסלק אותה מביתנו, נשארת הבת שלנו בלי שירות מספק.

הפתרון הוא בצורת פרק דיור בקהילה וסיוע אישי בחוק שוויון זכויות לאנשים עם מוגבלות.

הצעת החוק תעלה לדיון בוועדת שרים לענייני חקיקה בשבוע הבא, ואנו כהורים מבקשים ממך לתמוך בה ולא לסתום את הגולל על הסיכוי של הילדה שלנו לקבל שירות מכבד ומותאם לצרכים שלה.

בכבוד רב
פרימט וארנולד רוט

[Phone number goes here]

Please help us inundate those politicians with this exhortation to pass the bill guaranteeing freedom of choice of residence to people with disabilities.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

De-institutionalization of people with disabilities: here's something we can do

Israeli cabinet meeting, January 2017 [Representative Image]
Israel's Ministerial Committee on Legislation will vote next week on a bill granting people with disabilities the right to choose their place of residence. The bill also ensures they will receive all requisite supportive services at the home of their choice.

The enactment of this bill is long overdue and is a basic element of equal rights for citizens with disabilities.

In the current situation, people with disabilities only enjoy those services and therapies if they - or their guardians - agree to their being locked up in an institution or hostel.

Just imagine how you would feel if our government dictated where - in fact in which specific building - you are permitted to live? And then imagine that you forfeit all of your government entitlements if you chose to disregard that order.

Doesn't sound remotely democratic, does it?

Well, that is the reality for thousands of people with disabilities, including our daughter Chaya whom we have chosen to keep at home with us and near to the rest of her family. As a result of our choice, Chaya does not receive the government funds for therapies and equipment that a child like her residing in an institution receives. (Those funds are channeled to those institutions; whether or not they actually provide those therapies is another matter.)

If your child is in this situation or if, as a professional, you know such children, Bizchut urges you to write to any or all of the Ministers on that committee. Their names and email addresses are listed below as is an outline of the sort of letter that Bizchut believes would be effective. I have translated that to English. Just fill in the details about the child you know and send it off in the language you prefer.

Draft Letter:

1. שם ההורה ושם הילד - Names of the child and his/her parents
2. המוגבלות של הילד - Description of the child's disabilities
3. הצורך בשירותים של דיור ושירותים תומכי דיור עבור הילד - The child's need for living arrangements and supportive services
4. מה שקיים כיום לא מספק, ולכן הבן/בת שלי לא מקבלים שירות מספק - The current government assistance falls short of providing this child with the necessary services
5. הדאגה לעתיד הילד והצורך בפתרון - Concern for the child's future and the need for a solution
6. הפתרון הוא בצורת פרק דיור בקהילה  וסיוע אישי בחוק שוויון זכויות לאנשים עם מוגבלות - The solution is in the section about in-community living of the Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities Law, 5758-1998
7. הצעת החוק תעלה לדיון בוועדת שרים לענייני חקיקה בשבוע הבא, ואני כהורה מבקש ממך מאוד לתמוך בה ולא לסתום את הגולל על הסיכוי של הילד שלי לקבל שירות מכבד ומותאם לצרכים שלו - The bill will be discussed in the Ministerial Committee for Legislative Matters next week and I, as a parent, implore you to support it and not to end my child's chances to receive services that are honorable and appropriate for his/her needs.
האימיילים של השרים בוועדת שרים לחקיקה
Email addresses of relevant Ministers

חיים כץ, רווחה -
יעקב ליצמן, בריאות -
משה כחלון, אוצר -
יואב גלנט, שיכון -
איילת שקד, משפטים -
יריב לוין - תיירות -
דוד אזולאי, שירותי דת -
גילה גמליאל, שוויון חברתי -
מירי רגב, תרבות וספורט -
זאב אלקין, הגנת הסביבה -
יובל שטייניץ, תשתיות -
סופה לנדבר, עליה וקליטה -

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

On the road to de-institutionalization, some winners, some losers

Marlee Matlin [Image Source]
A couple of weeks ago, the Ruderman Foundation bestowed an award on Oscar-winning actress, Marlee Matlin ["Oscar-winning deaf actress, who is Jewish, ‘has broken down barriers and changed perceptions worldwide’", Times of Israel, February 23, 2017]. Matlin, who is both Jewish and deaf, will receive the fourth annual Morton E. Ruderman Award in Inclusion. She intends to visit Israel in June 2017 to receive the award which comes with a $100,000 grant.

I would love to use that opportunity to educate Matlin about the sort of inclusion that the Ruderman Foundation promotes. Because, while its staff members do write and speak much about true inclusion and accessibility for people with disabilities, the Foundation has also evidently developed a close relationship with Aleh, the leading chain of large, closed institutions for people with disabilities in Israel.

That "marriage" is akin to the tobacco industry hitching up with the AMA, or Coca Cola with an anti-obesity organization.

Oops. That last marriage actually took place [see Popular Science, December 2, 2015] But when its existence - and the influence exerted by Coca Cola on the organization - were revealed by the New York Times, the partners promptly "divorced":
The Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN), an organization founded to help combat obesity, will be disbanding after months of criticism following a New York Times report back in August that revealed Coca-Cola had funded the organization. The group wiped its website clean, leaving a post that said it was discontinuing operations "due to resource limitations".
Image Source
True, that setback has not deterred soft drink giants Coca Cola and Pepsi from continuing to lobby and invest huge sums of money to distract the public and the government from the dangers of soft drinks. (See "Coca-Cola and Pepsi have been quietly lobbying against anti-obesity measures in the US", The Journal, October 15, 2016)

Nevertheless, the hasty disbanding of that organization, GEBN, contrasts with Ruderman Foundation’s attitude towards Aleh.

A year ago, we alerted the Ruderman Foundation -- via an article I wrote for this blog ["Israel is in love with institutions", April 4, 2016], in a May 2016 Algemeiner op ed, and in my husband's phone conversation with its spokesperson -- to the hypocrisy in its "partnership" with a chain of institutions for people with disabilities.

The Foundation says on its website that it is committed to the following:
"Guided by our Jewish values, we advocate for and advance the inclusion of people with disabilities throughout our society; foster a more nuanced understanding of the American Jewish community among Israeli leaders; and model the practice of strategic philanthropy worldwide..."
Aleh's warehousing of infants, children and adults with disabilities is nothing short of the antithesis of that purported goal.

The Ruderman Foundation did not respond to us in any substantive way.

To this day, you can still find a blog post on its website ["Positive Impact"] extolling the virtues of Aleh Negev and its so-called prisoner rehabilitation program. It's a post that dates back to October 2013. (Here's some of my December 2016 criticism of that program: "Can Aleh get its prisoners story straight?")

You can also still find on Aleh's Facebook page a post from 2015 boasting of its partnership with the Ruderman Foundation. The Foundation doesn't seem disturbed by Aleh's exploitation of its name to erase the taint of exclusion and isolation.

Today, as I was typing this post, Bizchut began circulating a stellar video clip ("Make room") promoting inclusion that it produced with sponsorship from the Ruderman Foundation. (In Hebrew and with English-language subtitles.)

Bizchut urged us, along with all its supporters, to help circulate this powerful work (which has gotten more than 100,000 views in the past few days). So despite my above diatribe against Ruderman, I urge you all to watch it and share it widely.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Aleh: Blowing smoke

Not a parody: a genuine smoking ad [Image Source]
Aleh is "promoting" inclusion.

Ouch. Just typing that sentence felt painful and infuriating. Its irony is reminiscent of the cigarette advertisements that were common during the early 1900's. Some of them featured doctors urging the public to smoke specific cigarette brands to benefit their health. My own mother, usually tense, was encouraged in 1959 by her doctor to continue smoking during her pregnancy with my brother "to calm herself".

In that same vein, we now have Aleh, champions of the institutionalization of people with disabilities, launching a photographic exhibition last week [here] with the claim that it "highlights the importance of acceptance and inclusion".

At the risk of sounding tiresome and repetitive, I will clarify:
Institutions like Aleh's  - the largest such chain in Israel - are the epitome of EX-clusion and rejection. Hiring a professional photographer to capture artistic shots of  residents of those institutions doesn't change that incontrovertible fact. 
Last week a protest organized by Bizchut was held outside Neve Ha'irus, the institution housing 130 that has been accused of scandalous abuses and violations of human rights [see my earlier posts]. Not one news source reported the event. That omission speaks volumes about the state of de-institutionalization in Israel.

Prior to the protest demonstration, one news station did send an undercover journalist to Neve Ha'irus as a job applicant for a position as caregiver. Despite having no experience in the field, he was hired.

He learned disturbing facts about the treatment of the residents both from observation and from fellow employees that included:
  • an intolerable stench in some of the buildings
  • brass beds with misfitting mattresses forcing residents to sleep curled up
  • closets containing nice, new clothes that are removed, according to staff, only when a resident receives visitors
  • toilets without seats
  • bathrooms without soap because, as the administrator explained, "there are some who would put it in their mouth". So nobody sees to it that their hands are cleaned either before or after meals
  • dirty sinks and toilets
  • common toothbrushes for all
  • parents are never admitted to the buildings; only visit their children outdoors.
  • much "dead time"; one resident tells the reporter he'd "like to work"  
  • complaining staff members are penalized via their work schedules
Perhaps the most baffling finding is that the Ministry of Welfare hands Neve Ha'irus 10,000 shekels per resident every month and is responsible for "supervising" its operation.

Bizchut is demanding the immediate closure of this institution until an independent supervisory body is established to replace the clearly incompetent Ministry of Welfare.

Hebrew speakers can listen to the report via YouTube.

Back to Aleh:

All the dangers of institutionalization apply there too. The PR release accompanying the photo exhibition states:
"A quick glance at the photographs would not reveal the difference between these children and others, and that is exactly the point that the exhibition is trying to make: individuals with disabilities have an equal place in society and should be accepted just like anyone else."

They most certainly should! Acceptance means enabling them to live in the community and with either their own or other families; NOT warehoused within large closed institutions.

Here is our sweet Chaya at home (on the right) in an engaging pose I caught by chance.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Joining the struggle against institutionalization

Caption reads: "There were buildings where the stench was simply
unbearable..." Screen grab from the Israel
Channel 2 TV expose of serious deficiencies at
Neve Ha'irus (full video online here)
One couple on the Bizchut forum with whom I've communicated (see "My contribution to Bizchut's forum on the Neve Ha'irus scandal" and "The evils of institutionalization are now on the front burner" and "One small step for people with disabilities - Help make it a giant leap") is now compiling a list of Israeli parents whose children with disabilities live at home.

The goal is to gain some traction for our fight to win "personal assistance baskets" (in Hebrew: סל סיוע אישי). That is the only way to right the injustice being perpetrated by our government: it spends over $3,500 (13,374 shekels) per month on, for instance, every child in the Aleh institutions.

Children with disabilities living with their families receive a tiny fraction of that via National Insurance.

If you are such a family and resent the way we are unfairly saving the government millions of shekels in outlays each year at the expense of our children's welfare, please add your name to this list.

If you like, submit your details to me via this form [click] and I will pass them along to the parent who is compiling the list.

Also, anybody interested in demonstrating on behalf of the closure of Neve Ha'irus (see my post "Not a Dickensian tale" for background), Bizchut is organizing a protest outside that institution for people with disabilities today.

Here is what Naama Lerner of Bizchut wrote on the Bizchut forum (translated to English by me):
On Thursday, 09/02, we will demonstrate opposite the institution, Neve Ha'irus. Neve Hairus is a paradigm for all similar institutions in Israel. And we will tell the State, "Shut down all these institutions. incorporate the concept of in-community living in the law of equality and appoint an ombudsman to ensure that cases like this do not recur." 
With regard to our personal initiative, though, Naama wrote:
"Leave it to us and the Knesset members, Uri Maklav and Ilan Gilon. In order for the new law regarding fully funded  in-community living and personal assistance baskets to progress it must pass a vote in the Knesset committee for legislation. The cabinet ministers on that committee are opposed to it because of its high cost and primarily because it involves significant structural changes to the Ministry of Welfare. We are embarking on a major campaign to soften those committee members and to convince them to pass the bill. It will be a long haul. Sadly." 
Later she added:
"It will be a slow struggle, a sisyphian one, and there is no alternative but to conduct it will lots of patience and teeth-gritting."

Saturday, February 4, 2017

My contribution to Bizchut's forum on the Neve Ha'irus scandal

"The carer didn't even notice that she (my daughter) had broken a tooth".
Video-still from an undercover investigation of Neve Ha'irus that appeared
in recent days on an Israeli Channel 2 news program [link]
Here is a comment I sent in Hebrew to the group of activists that has been discussing the issue of sub-standard institutions for people with disabilities and in particular Neve Ha'irus about which I wrote earlier.

(See my two previous posts: "The evils of institutionalization are now on the front burner" and "Not a Dickensian tale".)

The English translation appears below it, and the Hebrew right after it. I'll post the responses I receive as soon as I can translate them.
Hello All, 
Thus far, I haven't read a comment that represents those parents who choose to care for their children themselves at home. 
The government expends gargantuan sums on the care of people with disabilities only if they live in institutions. 
But if they live with their families the government doesn't subsidize their care other than with the minimal National Insurance stipend. 
The result is that we parents who are sacrificing our energies, our money and, often our health, are saving the government millions of shekels. 
For instance, for every child residing in Israel's largest chain of institutions, Aleh, over 16,000 shekels flow monthly of which 83% is taxpayers' money! 
So when we focus on the problem of these institutions let's also include the plight of parent-caregivers and our fight for a personal- basket-of-services for our children. 
Best,Frimet Roth
שלום כולם,

עד כה לא קראתי דעה שמייצגת את אותם הורים שבחרו לטפל בילדיהם בעצמם בחיק המשפחה.

הממשלה מעבירה הון תועפות עבור טיפולם של אנשים עם מוגבלויות אך ורק אם הם גרים במוסדות.אבל אם  הם חיים בבתיהם הממשלה אינה משתתפת במימון טיפולם - חוץ מהסכום המיזערי של  תשלומי ביטוח לאומי.

התוצאה היא שאנחנו, הורים שמוסרים את כוחותינו, כספינו ולעיתים קרובות את בריאותינו , חוסכים למממשלה מליוני שקלים. לדוגמא, עבור כל ילד ברשת הכי גדולה בארץ, "עלה", זורמים יותר מ-16,000 שקלים לחודש ש-83% הם מדמי משלמי מיסים!

אז כשמתמקדים בבעיית המוסדות האלה הבה נכלול גם את המצוקה של הורים-מטפלים ואת מאבקנו עבור סל סיוע לילדינו.


פרימט רוט