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.