Sunday, July 16, 2017

Israel, the world, disabilities and rights

Yotam Tolub [Image Source]
In June 2017, Yotam Tolub who is the director of Bizchut,  the Israel Human Rights Center for People with Disabilities, delivered a lecture at a Kiryat Ono conference about disabilities.

The full text is expected to be uploaded soon. But in the meantime, he shared with us this summary of that talk:

  • Basically, I spoke about the fact that in Israel, in contrast to the U.S. and Europe, in-community living is the last topic rather than the first in the promotion of the rights of people with disabilities. 
  • I pointed out the huge gap in this area between Israel and the rest of the world and related to the fact that academics are not active enough in this domain and do not inspire discussion about it. 
  • This results in minimal awareness of and information about the topic.

More to come.

Friday, July 14, 2017

A pair of discordant voices

Eisenkot [Image Source]
This week, Israel's Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, extolled institutionalization during his fanfare visit [link] to Aleh Negev.

His hyperbolic praise of Israel's largest chain of closed institutions for children and adults with disabilities included these words:
"It is an opportunity to experience the vision, the mission and the love of mankind evident here. This meeting teaches us about man’s spirit, and about the power of a society that is measured by its sensitivity and its efforts to benefit every person."
At about the same moment, another world-renowned figure sent the opposite message about institutionalization.

To mark the twentieth anniversary of Harry Potter, his creator J.K. Rowling gave a rare interview [link] to Christiane Amanpour on CNN during which she focused on the history and mission of her NGO, Lumos.
"Our ambition is to end the institutionalization of children throughout the world by 2050".
JK Rowling [Image Source]
She noted that 8 million children are currently warehoused in institutions globally, "But that might be a low guess".

She added that "90% of those children have at least one parent who overwhelmingly did not want to give the child up".

(In many cases, that is true of those living in Aleh facilities as well.)

She warned donors to
"be careful how you give because even if you're giving with the best of intentions, you may inadvertently be doing harm... propping up a system that we know, 100 years of research shows that even a well run institution, even an institution set up with the best possible intentions, will irrevocably harm the child".
Rowling also addressed potential volunteers:
"Volunteer differently... Volunteering is an amazing thing but volunteer in the right way. Unfortunately, little though you might want to believe it, one of the reasons institutions are set up is to bring into the country foreign money in the form of donations but also in the form of volunteers, wealthy Western volunteers who are also bringing currency."
The next time you see one of Aleh's invitations to volunteer and donate to its large, closed institutions, you may want to ask yourself: "Why do they want me?"

Friday, June 23, 2017

Even Chief Rabbis make mistakes

Source: https://aleh.org/donation/adopt-yosef/
It has been a demoralizing season for people in Israel with disabilities.

On May 25th, we were subjected to yet another Flash-A-Celebrity episode courtesy of Aleh Jerusalem.

This time, it was the chief Rabbi of Great Britain and the Commonwealth, Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who was hosted by that institution's director, Shlomit Grayevsky. She told him:
"Thanks to ALEH’s professional staff and innovative programming, Israeli children with complex disabilities of every age are able to live much like their non-disabled peers, are accepted by a wider segment of the population and develop far beyond the boundaries of their initial prognoses...” ["UK Chief Rabbi Is Captivated by ALEH’s Disability Care", May 26, 2017, Jewish Link of NJ]
I fairly choked on those lies. So being locked in a large, closed institution constitutes living "much like their non-disabled peers"? Well,  it probably does in North Korea. But in Israel?

Aleh maintains that institutionalization of these children is in their own best interests. It affords them access to, as Aleh describes them, state-of-the-art services and therapies. To illustrate, in a profile of one of its residents, Aleh states:
Faced with this new reality [the child suffered devastating brain damage], his family decided that the best home for Yosef would be at ALEH, where he would receive the outstanding care and optimal rehabilitative opportunities to help him develop... ["Adopt Yosef | YOUR SUPPORT WILL HELP YOSEF CONTINUE TO DEVELOP HIS POTENTIAL AND KEEP SMILING!"]
Even if this were accurate, why should these unfortunate children be removed from their homes and families in order to receive the "outstanding" and "optimal" care they surely need and certainly deserve?

Just imagine being told by the government:
"Yes, your non-disabled child needs and deserves an education. She will definitely receive an outstanding one with one proviso: that you first transfer her out of your home."
Sadly, it appears Rabbi Mirvis was either unaware of or unconcerned by the injustices being promoted by his hosts. He also appears not to be sensitive to the disparity between the policies of his own home country toward children with disabilities and those of Israel.

Both the UK and Israel are signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Article 19 of that Convention states clearly that governments are obligated to
"...recognize the equal right of all persons with disabilities to live in the community, with choices equal to others and take effective and appropriate measures to facilitate full enjoyment by persons with disabilities of this right and their full inclusion and participation in the community..."
The United Kingdom ratified that Convention in 2009 affording it the force of a national law. The starting dates for strategic change toward community services varied. During the past 2-3 decades, complete closure of the traditional large institutions for the mentally disabled has been achieved in several countries. In England for instance, this had been achieved by 2011.

Nevertheless the Chief Rabbi chose to "applaud" and "thank" Aleh for perpetuating the system that his own country has eradicated.

Perhaps he feels that Israeli children with disabilities don't deserve the quality of life that English children with disabilities enjoy?

He said:
"I am proud that in London we have so many generous people who are very supportive of ALEH. I will make it a priority to share what I have seen here today with our constituents across the UK so that this support only continues to grow.” ["CHIEF RABBI OF UK VISITS ALEH", May 5, 2017 - from the Aleh website]
He also mentioned the trendy term "disability inclusion". Never mind that, as we all know, inclusion is the diametrical opposite of what Aleh practices.

The icing on this tawdry cake was the announcement [here] that same month of the opening of a new educational and residential wing at Aleh's Jerusalem branch.

So while institutions like Aleh have been made obsolete in the rest of the world, in Israel they are flourishing and expanding. And they are doing so in contravention of the law.

At around the time that Aleh was boasting and expanding, another institution was in the news too.

Last week, a shocking undercover video clip from the Feuerstein Institute's hostel for disabled and cognitively challenged adults in the Ein Karem section of Jerusalem made waves in the world of disabilities. Residents come from locations throughout Israel and suffer from conditions including cognitive and developmental disabilities, behavioral and emotional impairments, Down Syndrome and more.

As a result of the exposure on Israeli TV news (via hidden-camera reporting), we now know that residents are horribly victimized verbally and physically.

Some excerpts I picked up from watching:
  • "Animal! Pig!" shouts one caregiver at a resident. "No more shouting! The only one allowed to shout here is me!"
  • A caregiver is asked by a young female resident: "Can I have another portion?" He replies: "You'll get a beating! What portion? You'll get a beating! Really a portion!"
  • A resident is warned: "Keep eating! If not, I'll come and hit you."
The news item said employees at the hostel told journalists they had reported the abusive behavior of their Feuerstein hostel colleagues to superiors but were threatened with retribution if they pursued the matter. The parents, they related, are also afraid to speak up because "there is a correlation between parents who complain about the situation and the residents who suffer."

That is surely a quandary facing parents of children in any closed institution.

Notwithstanding, two parents of children who were in Aleh institutions - one in a day program, the other in a residential one - have recently contacted me to share their bitter experiences. They paint a picture of life there that is a far cry from the one that the Chief Rabbi extolled.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A lesson in the politics of extradition

Image Source: The blog I co-write with my husband
This month, Israel proved yet again that re-arresting prisoners released in swap deals isn't such a big deal. The proviso, of course, is that the ex-prisoner violated a condition of release. But that's a lenient requirement. After all, we're dealing with a gang disinclined to repent their murders of Jews.

But this week's re-arrest was different from others. It was for a relatively mild infraction, unrelated to terrorist activity. And committed by a man in his seventies.

Notwithstanding, our government's reaction was swift and severe.

With no retrial, and relying only on a finding by a parole board, Yusuf Abu al-Hir was promptly re-imprisoned for the remainder of his original sentence, namely 15 life terms.

Originally from Acre, Abu al Hir was jailed in 1969 for a series of security offenses. He was found guilty of planting explosives in various places and facilities, causing the death of two people and wounding many others. A military court sentenced him to 15 life sentences plus 20 years in prison and another 10 years, set to be served concurrently.

In 1983, Abu al-Hir was released as part of the first Jibril Agreement under which Israel freed 4,765 security prisoners in exchange for six IDF Nahal soldiers captured during the First Lebanon War.

On May 25, 2017, Abu Al Hir re-entered Israel from Greece where he has lived since his deportation. The conditions of his release categorically prohibited him from doing so. 

But Israel's move begs the question: why is it thoroughly indifferent toward another, younger, far more dangerous terrorist? A woman who has repeatedly violated the conditions of her release? Namely, Ahlam Tamimi.

Tamimi has been brazenly and relentlessly inciting Muslims to the murder of more Jews ever since her release in 2011 as part of the Shalit Deal. She is a convicted, self-confessed mass murderer responsible for 16 deaths in the bombing of Jerusalem's Sbarro pizzeria of August 2001.

So why has Israel washed its hands of her? Why did our prime minister appease her in 2012 by allowing her fiance - also a Shalit Deal releasee - to join her in Jordan in order to marry her? Why did he deem that violation of release conditions irrelevant?

We are also left wondering about another decision Israel recently took. Based on our meeting with FBI and US Department of Justice officials, it is apparent that their request for assistance in winning Tamimi's extradition from Jordan was flatly denied by Israel. It is fairly safe to presume this response was approved - if not instigated - by our prime minister.

Source
Israel's assistance is crucial to bringing Tamimi, an active, blood thirsty terrorist, to justice. U.S. efforts to have her extradited - as provided for by an extradition treaty between the U.S and Jordan -have struck a brick wall. Jordan's King Abdullah has trotted out every excuse he could dredge up - from the judicial to the parliamentary to the "constitutional" - to argue that extradition of Tamimi is impossible. Bear in mind the absurdity of all that: he heads a dictatorial monarchy!

Nevertheless, we were told by U.S. representatives that Israel's official statement was: "Our hands are tied behind our backs." Or in plain English: "Go jump in the lake."

There are probably several theories as to why our prime minister would approve that. His hypocrisy vis a vis terrorism is no secret. In speeches, he waxes bombastic about the topic. But when it comes to action: political profit is what guides him and when being soft with terrorists has empowered him, soft he has been.

So, to concede that the Shalit Deal releasees have resumed terrorism is political poison for the man who set them loose on us all to begin with. This explains our government's refusal to publicize updated statistics regarding those 1,027 prisoners.

We, and the public, know that since 2011, Israel has rearrested dozens of Palestinians freed in the Shalit Deal for terrorist activities. Also, that between 2014 and 2015, six Israelis were killed by Palestinian prisoners released in that deal.

Political calculations also explain why Israel has chosen to steer clear of Tamimi's extradition. Our prime minister cannot afford to have headlines reiterating the brutal massacre that Tamimi perpetrated on 15 men, women and children. Media rehashing of Tamimi's gloating over the large number of children - eight - she butchered could be disastrous for him. And, as we all know, nothing would be more disastrous than that.

Last year, on our behalf, our lawyer inquired of the Prime Minister's Office as to what guidelines the Israeli courts have for sentencing Shalit Deal prisoners who are re-arrested. A lawyer in the PMO responded to him saying the answers were subject to security censorship, were controlled by the government's security service, and that we were not entitled to an answer.

We are now preparing for another round of legal challenges against the Ministry of Justice, possibly through the Freedom of Information mechanism. We will keep you updated.

Friday, May 26, 2017

After Manchester: Media and politicians are moved by some terrorist attacks, not so much by others

AWhat would people say if
the child-seeking Manchester savages were freed,
honored and given refuge by a Western ally?
As my daughter's murderer was and is..
I originally published this article on the Times of Israel where I frequently write. It appeared under the title "Manchester, Jerusalem and a double standard".


The entire sane world is united in its condemnation of the Manchester terror bombing. It has been particularly shocked by the targeting of children and teens, describing it as barbaric, cruel and horrific [here and here for instance]. Undoubtedly the only appropriate reaction.

But it is also puzzling.

Because it contrasts so starkly with the world's recent response to another terrorist who targeted children and teens and murdered. I refer to the Hamas mastermind of the Sbarro massacre on August 9, 2001, Ahlam Tamimi.

My daughter, Malki, among the fifteen murdered then, was, like so many of the Manchester victims, fifteen years old when she died. 

What do you think these outraged news commentators and world leaders would say were the perpetrator of the Manchester attack freed, celebrated as a hero and given refuge by an ally of key Western powers?

Can you imagine them just blowing that off? Would they shrug their shoulders and yawn if that ally refused to extradite the terrorist to a state whose nationals were among the victims? Would they ho hum and stick to business-as-usual if that harboring ally had actually signed an extradition treaty with that state two decades ago?

Would they dare to welcome that terrorist protector as an honored guest and praise it as an enemy of terrorism?

Well, that is what has happened to the child murderer, Tamimi and to the state giving her refuge, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.  

On March 14, 2017, the US Department of Justice unsealed a 2013 criminal complaint charging Tamimi with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against U. S. nationals outside the United States resulting in death. Two of Tamimi's victims were Americans. Malki was one of them.

The DOJ reported that it had requested Tamimi's extradition from Jordan at that time but that King Abdullah II and his regime had refused to comply despite the existence of an extradition treaty signed by the two countries in 1995.

Jordan's romance with Tamimi dates back to 2011 when it welcomed her back home after her release from Israeli prison in the now-infamous Shalit Deal.

Here is an Arabic media description of that event in October 2011:
Freed Jordanian captive Ahlam al-Tamimi arrived Tuesday night to a hero's welcome as hundreds of Palestinians and Jordanians waited for her arrival at Queen Alia Airport in Amman.As well as her family members, hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood activists and trade unionists as well as ordinary citizens gathered at Queen Alia Airport to welcome Tamimi. They raised Palestinian flags as well as Hamas banners and chanted in support of the resistance who achieved the exchange deal.Tamimi gave a short speech which was interrupted many times by applause and chants of support. [Al-Jazeerah, October 19, 2011]

Subsequently, she landed her own weekly TV talk show on the Hamas station, Al Quds. The program is beamed by satellite to viewers throughout the Arab world and is replete with brazen incitement to terror acts. 

Malki z"l
But Western media and leaders couldn't be less moved by this injustice if they tried. For them, Tamimi is somehow a different species of child killer than Manchester's Salman Abedi was. The travesty of justice she embodies doesn't warrant any airtime.

And Jordan's intimate relationship with its western allies has continued to thrive.  Its monarch, King Abdullah II, was an honored guest of the U.S. just a few weeks after the DOJ announced its indictment and demand for extradition.

Abdullah's embrace of Tamimi didn't impact President Trump in the slightest. He heralded the king as "a great warrior" who has been key in the fight against ISIS.

And Abdullah chimed in that the fight against terror "has no borders, no nationality, no religion". Adding: "We are very encouraged with the president's determination to support Arab and Muslim states in their fight against terrorism." 

By now you may be asking, as I am, why the murder of Jewish children in Jerusalem is not deemed as horrific and intolerable as that of the children in Manchester.

I have one explanation for the double standard and it starts with an "A".


What's yours?

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Peeling the layers of grief

My daughter Malki Z"L, about eight
weeks before the end of her life
It’s the grief that keeps on taking.

That is, of course, the loss of a child, unique among other losses. Indeed, the murder of our precious fifteen year old daughter, Malki, in 2001 has been inflicting ever new and unexpected pain since we lost her.

First, there was the release of her murderer, Ahlam Tamimi, by the Netanyahu administration in the Shalit Deal of 2011. We are still reeling from that travesty of justice.

Then in 2012, our government freed another Shalit Deal releasee from West Bank "exile", causing a baffling sort of pain. A murderer too, he was Tamimi's cousin/fiance. The pass Israel gave him to cross the border into Jordan directly contravened the terms of the Shalit deal. 

Then why do it? Well, there had been press coverage in previous weeks of the “star crossed lovers” and Israel’s “cruel interference” in their romance. Apparently our leaders could not withstand the media heat.

Word reached us that Israel intended to allow the male Tamimi to enter Jordan. We immediately engaged a lawyer to petition the High Court for an injunction preventing that move. However we were urged by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Justice Department to delay proceeding while they “looked into the matter”. Naively, we acquiesced. The delay enabled Netanyahu’s government to secretly whisk the murderer through the Allenby Bridge checkpoint unimpeded.

On March 14, 2017, the US Department of Justice unsealed its 2013 criminal complaint charging Ahlam Tamimi with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against U. S. nationals outside the United States resulting in death. Both Malki and a second victim – a young, pregnant woman who was her parents’ only child – were US citizens. 

The US request for Tamimi’s extradition has been flatly refused by Jordan despite an extradition treaty signed by those two countries in 1995.

Observing the U.S. and Israel nurturing their warm relationships with Jordan’s King Abdullah while he harbors a mass murderer has added yet another facet to our grief. President Trump recently hosted him at the White House and fell all over himself praising him:
“In King Abdullah, America is blessed with a thoughtful and determined partner… The King has been a leader in calling for a plan to defeat ISIS once and for all. And I’m with you on that. We’re both leaders on that, believe me.”
At the same time, Israel has been exporting gas to Jordan from its Leviathan offshore field since March 2017. According to this source, it will maintain the current volume of gas throughout the 15-year contract with Jordan even if this means gas shortages for Israelis according to a secret letter signed by Mr Netanyahu and Israel’s energy minister. By comparison
“Egypt has reduced the amount of gas it supplies the Jordanians, after it emerged that Egypt needed to reserve gas for its own people.”
A generous contract, to say the least.

Neither leader has raised the Tamimi extradition matter with the Jordanian king.

So you'll forgive us our cynicism when Netanyahu dons expressions of gravitas and compassion, as he undoubtedly will on Yom Hazikaron – Israel’s Remembrance Day, to warn of the existential threat that terrorism poses to the Jewish people.

Here is what he said on Yom Hashoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day some years ago:
“As Prime Minister of Israel, I will never shy from speaking the truth before the world, no matter how uncomfortable it may seem to some. I speak the truth at the United Nations; I speak the truth in Washington DC, the capital of our great friend, the United States, and in other important capitals; And I speak the truth here in Jerusalem, on the grounds of Yad VaShem which are saturated with remembrance. I will continue to speak the truth to the world, but first and foremost I must speak it to my own people. I know that my people is strong enough to hear the truth.”
But Netanyahu did not speak the truth to his people when he told them in 2011 that he had written to every victim of terror's family to explain and apologize for the release of the murderers of their loved ones. The truth was he had written to none of them and never has to this day.

He never responded to our written pleas to him to delete the mass murderer, Ahlam Tamimi, from his list of Palestinian prisoners included in the Shalit Deal.

He never explained the bizarre release of Tamimi’s husband from the West Bank.

And now, he has not explained his silence about Jordan’s refusal to extradite Tamimi to the U.S.

We dream of the day when this hypocrisy will cease; when this mass murderer who widely disseminates her brand of evil and hatred will be returned to prison; and when we will be free to grieve for our Malki without the painful burden of these additional injustices.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Who was Władysław Szlengel?

Image Source
Władysław Szlengel (1914-1943), a victim of the Holocaust, is a poet of whom I first heard this weekend via the Haaretz Book Review section.

Szlengel and his wife fled to Bialystok after the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939. They returned to their home in the Warsaw Ghetto after the Nazi incursion into USSR. Throughout that period, Szlengel published poems and articles in Polish in literary and political journals.

The literary Café Sztuka situated in the Ghetto was the venue for literary evenings and events. There Szlengel excelled in his prophetic poetry and satirical songs and skits which laughed at the Jewish society around him, at the good and the bad therein. He saw himself as "The Writer of the Chronicles of the Drowning".

He was extremely sensitive to all that happened in the world of the Ghetto. Thus, for instance, he wrote a poem about a Jew who had never seen an airplane and heard:
"That you can now get from Poland to Palestine in an airplane... So is the Holy Land so close?"
And most of all, his poems settle accounts with G-d as does the following (my translation into English):
They said: Pray
I prayed
They said - You must fast - I fasted...
They said: Don't steal
I didn't steal!
They said don't eat pig (which I love)
I didn't eat it
They said: don't commit adultery
I restrained myself...
For the L-rd...
Excuse me? I asked, for what?
I said, G-d will help
I said, G-d will deliver
I believed: G-d is with me...
How do You answer me today?
For all my deeds
Do You still expect me
In two days time, as in a will,
while I walk toward the Prussian gas
to say Amen?
Szlengel [Image Source]
In the Ghetto, Szlengel printed and secretly distributed a book of poetry entitled "Which I Read to the Dead" which has just been translated into Hebrew. That title is taken from this piece of his:
"I review and sort the poems I have written to those no longer alive. I once read these poems to living, warm people when I believed with all my heart that all this come to an end, that we will survive, that we will live to see tomorrow... This is our history. These are the poems I read to the dead."
And so we learn - on Holocaust Remembrance Day - of yet another precious, gifted Jewish soul, snuffed out by evil.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Respite care at Aleh: A mirage?

Respite care for disabled boy [Stock Image]
We parents caring for a child with severe disabilities all suffer from exhaustion and burn out sooner or later. A break from the grueling routine can not only energize us; it can literally rescue us.

Unfortunately, though, that salvation can be elusive. So it was with keen interest that I read the following in a post on Aleh's homepage.
As we toured ALEH, we all noticed the great love and care offered by the staff and volunteers. ALEH provides these special children with a quality of life that would not be possible otherwise, ensuring that their parents receive the support they so desperately need and a break from the 24/7 attention require to care for them appropriately. [Source: Aleh]
This was news to me. I had never heard or read that Aleh offers respite care. All their PR blather about Aleh being a "family" and a "home" appeared to indicate that Aleh only offered one residential option - for life.

But a dear friend of mine who also has a daughter with special-needs requiring round the clock care had been trying to locate a setting offering short term care to enable her and her husband to take a desperately needed vacation. So I told her about Aleh's apparent respite care program and she wrote them the following:
Dear Aleh,
I am the mother of a child with profound disabilities and a chronic illness. I have been caring for her at home for many years.(she's now 22).
I learned from your website that Aleh offers respite for caregivers like me.
What is the time range during which I can leave my child temporarily in your care?
Sincerely,
Mrs S [Surname omitted]
My friend received this response soon afterwards:
Dear [S],
Hi! I am so sorry for the delayed response.
Your email went into my junk mail by mistake.
I do not have an answer for you.
I suggest you call the Jerusalem office directly and see if they can help you 02.501.1000
Hatzlacha,

Dov Hirth
Marketing & Development
Office: +972-2-501-1116
USA: 1-866-717-0252
Canada: 888-824-5477
England: 0808-234-3782
ALEH provides over 700 children and young adults with severe disabilities in Israel with high-level medical and rehabilitative care in four residential facilities. ALEH is their home and their family – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  www.ALEH.org
This struck us as odd since Mr. Hirth appeared to be in a perfect position to answer my friend's straightforward query. She wrote him again.
Hello Mr. Hirth,
What I am interested to know is whether Aleh can care for my child for a few days to give me and my husband some respite. If that is a service that your facility offers I will definitely phone the Jerusalem office as you suggested.
Thank you.
Sincerely,
[S]
My friend's second email never received a response.

Clearly, Aleh implies that it offers respite care but does no such thing. And this should surprise nobody. No doubt they figure: why would we offer that service to aid and abet parents who reject institutionalization and keep their children at home? That would be at cross purposes with Aleh's goal.

But mentioning respite care on their website sure enhances Aleh's image.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Aleh takes the prize

Renowned musician Itzhak Perlman and friends at the Genesis Prize award
ceremony - June 23, 2017 [Image Source]
Once again, Aleh, Israel's largest chain of warehouse institutions for people with disabilities, has duped just about everyone. By that I mean the prime minister, world renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman, Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky and the Israeli affiliate of United Way Worldwide.

Some rather esteemed "everybodies", I'm sure you'll agree.

Back on June 23, 2016, the annual Genesis Prize was presented in a glittering ceremony to celebrity violinist Itzhak Perlman. Established in 2013, it has been called by Time Magazine the “Jewish Nobel”.

The cash part of the Genesis Prize award is $1 million. This was doubled to $2 million via a contribution from a philanthropist, Roman Abramovich. And a third million would be raised through a matching funds program to be administered by Jewish Funders Network. Perlman himself announced he would apply the Genesis Prize cash to support two new initiatives. About 80% of the $3 million would go to "Breaking Barriers", a competition to select a handful of projects conceived by organizations Israel and North America 
that promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of Jewish communal life [Press release, September 12, 2016]
(The remaining 20% would be applied to advanced training for especially talented musicians in Israel.)

The winning Israeli projects were announced on April 2, 2017. Aleh Negev was one of the seventeen and it stuck out like a sore thumb. The winners included the IsraelMuseum, Beit Issie Shapiro, the Community Centers Company (החברה למתנ"סים), Rimon School of Music, the "PleaseTouch" Theatre, Hasadna Conservatory of Jerusalem, the Jordan RiverVillage, Milbat, the Gesher Theatre, the Vertigo Dance Troupe, the Central Library for the Blind and the Orna Porat Theatre for Children and Youth.

According to a spokeswoman for the prize I spoke with at Matan, the Israeli affiliate of United Way, all the winning projects were selected from a list of applicants who seek to culturally enrich people with disabilities. Some of those projects will only be realized the winners once the award money is handed to them. Aleh's winning project is one of those.

The spokeswoman, Tal, told me it will involve Aleh staff taking residents from its institution for babies, children and adults to the theatre, concerts and similar events. The Aleh website boasts that the grant will let it "empower children with disabilities and expose children of all abilities to the arts" and that the funds will go towards taking "residents to museums, musical performances and other cultural events".

Those excursions will give the residents a very rare opportunity to leave that large, closed institution isolated from the general population in the middle of Israel's Negev desert. We know that because, by Aleh's own admission, its residents spend most of their time confined to the institution. In its own words:
For most of us, traveling by train is a routine activity. Not so for the residents of ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran, who recently went on the first train ride of their lives – a very exciting experience... During the train ride, the residents and staff sang songs and gazed, as if hypnotized, at the amazing Negev landscape passing by their windows... [Aleh website]
What is incomprehensible to me is that an institution which by its very existence promotes and entrenches the anathema of institutionalization and segregation of people with disabilities has been awarded this prize.

Several speakers at the award ceremony emphasized the concept of equal rights for people with disabilities and of their inclusion in the general society. Nobody could possibly argue that warehousing those with disabilities in large institutions, a practice eradicated from most other first world countries (see my January 2016 post: Aleh 101) constitutes inclusion.

“People with disabilities are citizens who deserve equal rights,” Perlman said at Sunday’s ceremony. “If we fight for their rights, expand their horizons and ensure maximum accessibility we will give them the tools to contribute to society – this is the Israel we all want to see for ourselves and our children.”

Hmmm. And locking them in institutions achieves that how?

Bizchut invites us to suggest which services belong in the basket

Knesset chamber [Image Source: Wiki Commons]
There is one organization that Aleh and other warehouses for people with disabilities have not managed to dupe

Without swaying from its course, without compromise, Bizchut (“The Israel Human Rights Center for People with Disabilities”) has doggedly championed equal rights for this population. It is currently lobbying hard for the passage of a law that will grant people with disabilities a personal package of benefits even if they or their families choose for them to live at home amongst the general community. 

Under the present law,  those services are available only if they are institutionalized in places like Aleh.

Bizchut invites people with disabilities, or where appropriate, their family members, to detail the services they would like to see included in that basket of benefits. Your suggestions will be considered by Bizchut in compiling the list it will submit to the Knesset Committee for legislation.

Share your views by filling in one of questionnaires below:
  • Questionnaire for people with disabilities [link]
  • Questionnaire accessible to people with linguistic disabilities [link]
  • Questionnaire for family members of people with disabilities [link]

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Falling victim to the media's "most ethical" behavior

The newly-found birthday card - from 1996
Like many of you, I've been cleaning, sorting and finding the unexpected these days.

Yesterday, a birthday card that the entire family gave our Malki on her 11th birthday turned up. Each of us had written our wishes and mine read:
"My Dearest Mali,
You are a constant source of נחת [Hebrew: pleasure] to us - may you continue in your דרך [Hebrew: way] until מאה ועשרים שנה   years [120 years is the traditional Jewish wish for a full lifespan] in good health... And not to worry about a profession; you seem blessed with the skills of an extremely competent עוזרת [Hebrew: cleaning lady - she always tidied up after me] as well as a very talented finder. [She always located the many items I constantly misplaced]. What more can one wish for? Of course, if those fields don't pan out for you there are always those musical, mathematical and artistic talents to fall back on (though we'd be understandably disappointed in that event). In the meantime, עלי והצליחי [Hebrew: Rise and succeed] and enjoy!
Love, Mom"
She only lived another four and a half years. The pain of longing for her is indescribable.

But there is another pain that I can convey. Its source is the  injustice of her murderer's freedom and continued incitement to kill more Jews. And the sympathy she garners from the mainstream media.

Last week, two Associated Press correspondents interviewed my husband and me at our home. They were interested in our reaction to the United States Department of Justice unsealing of the charges against Ahlam Tamimi, Mali's murderer. (Some background here.)

The pair seemed empathetic and understanding when we noted that we never agree to have our words juxtaposed with hers as some journalists had requested of us in the past. When Associated Press describes its own journalism, it says
"But always and in all media, we insist on the highest standards of integrity and ethical behavior when we gather and deliver the news. That means we abhor inaccuracies, carelessness, bias or distortions. It means we will not knowingly introduce false information into material intended for publication or broadcast; nor will we alter photo or image content." [From the AP website]
Yet several days later we were shocked to see that the AP had done just that. We learned that our interview with them was actually conducted a short time - some hours - after their journalist in Amman had met with Tamimi in her home. The two interviews are posted in a single YouTube video side by side.

Here is a partial transcript of Tamimi's infuriating words:
"The court ruled for not extraditing me to the US. Of course I'm happy, that was my first reaction, because I didn't do anything, and the charges filed against me by the US are not true, I know nothing about them and I never did that. The Jordanian decision was true, because the court in Jordan asked the US to send the whole file of the lawsuit but it didn't do that."
Senior AP employees to whom we complained insisted that we were meant to be forewarned of their intention to publicize our statement beside our child's murderer's. Well, nobody did.

The presentation of a convicted mass murderer's claims on an equal footing with those of the victims' parents is unethical and despicable. To add salt to the wound, the interview - riddled with lies - enables Tamimi to win global sympathy. It stymies current efforts to have her extradited from Jordan and tried in a US court.

Tamimi has over the last 11 years confessed repeatedly with pride and glee to the murders of 15 men, women and children (8 of the latter) to Arab and western journalists. She has detailed precisely what her central role in the massacre entailed. From scouting for and choosing the target for maximum carnage to transporting the 10 kg. bomb to her accomplice and concluding with leading him physically right to the door of the target, the Sbarro pizzeria. She left nobody in any doubt about her guilt.

Yet when speaking to the AP last week, Tamimi flatly denied any guilt in the atrocity she perpetrated. And the AP colluded with her by failing to cite any links to her many confessions. The reader is left to choose between her version of events and ours. As if they were both equally credible!

Please share this post with your friends. You will thereby help to intensify the pressure that is vital to achieving Tamimi's extradition by the Jordanian king. Our meeting here with the people from the US Department of Justice three weeks ago persuaded us that that is the only chance we have of seeing this evil woman brought to justice.

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

ירושלים
[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.