Thursday, March 15, 2018

My birthday wish is justice

March 14 is my birthday. But since last year the day has gained secondary significance in our home.

On March 14, 2017, my husband and I along with the parents of Shoshana Hayman Greenbaum were invited to meet officials of the US Department of Justice and the FBI at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. 

Several of those representatives had periodically spoken to us, ever since PM Netanyahu decided in 2011 to free 1,027 convicted terrorists including our daughter's murderer. We had pleaded with him to exclude from that list Ahlam Tamimi, the chief orchestrator and a perpetrator of the 2001 Sbarro bombing. 

Tamimi had confessed to,  and been convicted of, the murders of 15 people, eight of them children. She had been sentenced to 16 life terms. But Mr. Netanyahu, in a move far more immoral than any of the offenses of which he is now being accused, ignored us. 

On October 18, 2011, at his instruction, Tamimi was released along with 1,026 other terrorists - more than half of whom were convicted of murder or attempted murder - in order to retrieve Gilad Shalit. 

Last year at that meeting in the King David Hotel, we received what I naively believed would be a wonderful birthday gift: the news that Ahlam Tamimi was being indicted by the US for the murders of two Americans in the Sbarro massacre. Those victims were the pregnant 31 year old only child of the Haymans. And our 15 year old child, Malki.

But within minutes, it emerged that the "gift" was a curse, a source of yet more heartache. We learned then that the US had demanded Tamimi's extradition from Jordan to stand trial on US soil only to be met with a flat refusal by King Abdullah's regime for various bogus reasons.

Jordan had signed an extradition treaty with the US in 1995 and subsequently released several Jordanians to US custody in accordance with that same agreement. In the case of Tamimi, a woman of near-iconic stature in that country, Jordan behaves as if none of that ever happened.

Since March 14, 2017, we have discovered another painful reality: the United States appears unwilling to risk jeopardizing its friendship with Jordan's King Abdullah. It has avoided pressuring the king to buttress with actions his incessant chirping about "fighting terrorism". 

From the FBI Most Wanted
Terrorists website
He is lauded by both the US and Israel for being a staunch enemy of terrorists while harboring Tamimi, a mass-murdering Hamas agent. 

Through her Al QudsTV talk show, which she hosted until shortly before her US indictment, she has been brazenly inciting Muslims to the murder of more Jews. In speeches she has delivered throughout the Arab world she has boasted of her "accomplishments" and urged her fans to emulate them.

So as on every birthday since Mr. Netanyahu's infamous Shalit Deal, I pray and wish for the day that my Malki's murder will receive the just end it demands - Ahlam Tamimi behind US prison bars for life.

[A version of this piece was originally published in Times of Israel on March 14, 2018.]

Sunday, March 11, 2018

On the backs of children with disabilities: 3 Aleh tales

The caption on the original reads: "The prisoners
shed their uniforms before arriving
at ALEH to volunteer." [
Image Source]

Aleh has been congratulating itself for a program that it boasts rehabilitates felons. Only it does so on the backs of children and adults with severe disabilities.

It is now abundantly clear how respected this program is elsewhere: since its launch in 2008, no other institution has copied it anywhere in the world! This has been verified by the International Corrections and Prison Association ("ICPA"), an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. 

In 2011, ICPA bestowed the Offender Management and Reintegration Award on that Aleh program. But when contacted, the ICPA could not name another such program in any other prison. For corroboration it referred me to the Israel Prisons Service

Here is their response:
Dear Frimet Roth
I received your question from Fraser Brayns [of the ICPA]
As you know, this is a unique project that was initiated at the Israel prison service.
I asked around and we are not familiar with similar projects that are currently being implemented in other countries. [Emphasis added - FR]
Please don't hesitate to contact me on any further question.
Best wishes
(I first reported this is December 2016. See this post.)

Aleh Negev itself conceded that this is not exactly a safe model: none of the prisoners bussed there several times a week is allowed contact with any female or any minor Aleh residents. Nor may they enter the institution's therapy pool. 

No puzzle here. These are not ex-convicts but men who have not yet served out their sentences which, by Aleh's account, can even top seven years in prison. Israel's justice system does not impose terms that long for mild offenses. 

But what is infuriating is that those same prisoners are deemed by Aleh harmless enough to remove their prison garb, blend in with the staff and engage in one-on-one contact with its vulnerable male residents.


We've been reminded by our State Attorney Shai Nitzan (as I wrote in "Is this why our government loves Aleh?") that Israel's resource-deprived southern periphery is blessed by the employment opportunities provided by those same citizens with disabilities

Twelve years ago, I wrote ["Institutionalization isn't the answer", Jerusalem Post, June 28, 2006] about the then-nascent Aleh Negev project that Aleh's promoters had snared 46.5 million taxpayers' shekels and 100 dunams of public land. 

The bait included 500 jobs to boost the ailing Negev economy; creating lucrative on-site businesses including a coffee company; a for-profit paramedical therapies center; and opportunities for local high school students to earn matriculation points by volunteering.
The CEO at the time of Bizchut, the Center for Human Rights of People with Disabilities, Sylvia Tessler-Lazovic, wrote a scathing critique (in Hebrew, here) of Aleh Negev in reaction to the 2003 groundbreaking ceremony:
The Israeli government is allegedly demonstrating social sensitivity of the first degree in building a magnificent village for one of society's "weakest" populations. In a period of severe financial shortage, the government is withholding no professional or monetary resources from this group, allots a large tract of land for the construction of the village and develops a grand plan for it. It appears that its residents will receive the best care that money can buy. Establishing the village will also bring salvation to the unemployment struck desert by providing 500 jobs to operate it. In this article I intend to show that the decision to build this village doesn't show social sensitivity at all but is tainted with extreme immorality that opposes the rights of people with disabilities to equality and is illegal. [Translated to English by me.]
Illustrative [Image Source]

And now, this month, we've been informed that on the backs of Aleh residents, other citizens with disabilities are being employed - as gardeners on the Aleh Negev grounds: "New ALEH Program Creates Equal Employment Opportunities", February 19, 2018.

In this latest ruse, people with disabilities are being used at both ends - they create the jobs and they fill them. 

For an overview of my general critique of Aleh's approach - its methodology, its funding, its public relations -  see "Disabled: The pursuit of housing equality for Israel’s underclass" [Times of Israel, August 11, 2013]

The message must be reiterated loud and clear. Regardless of the benefits derived for the rest of society, locking up and isolating our children with disabilities is not OK.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Welcome to "quality" special education in Jerusalem

I gave a "tremp" yesterday to a woman I recognized from my daughter Chaya's "alma mater".

Of course, I grabbed the opportunity to inquire about the state of the school since C.'s graduation. It had switched, at that time, from the province of an amuta to that of the Ministry of Education. I was curious about the impact that transfer had had. 

The woman couldn't stop gushing about the change. When I asked for details, she noted "various benefits and gifts to the staff" including a reduction in work days from six to 5 per week for teacher's aides, which she is. 

All in all, she concluded, "things are great". 

Then I asked her what the administrative switch had done for the children. Were they receiving more therapies, for instance? (While Chaya attended, the number of therapies per week was piddling. At best, one half hour session per week of physio, occupational, speech therapy and hydrotherapy.)

But rarely if ever did all those eventuate. Therapists would be out for myriad reasons and staff meetings were always held during therapy hours. 

"No", she replied, unhesitatingly. "They receive fewer therapies. 

"But everybody seems pleased," she added. "I haven't heard any parents complaining". 

I choked... This woman was praising the new administration despite its harm to the children. And those children are entrusted to her care. 

Not very reassuring, to put it mildly.

PS We didn't manage to get to the neurologist this week as we had intended. But for now we aren't feeling the urgency.  Chaya has grown weary of that mysterious vomiting and has even cut back on her central fevers. My husband plans to meet the neurologist next week to discuss strategies for reducing seizures, He'll go without Chaya since she's been thoroughly examined by the pediatrician just last week. Yeah, I know, we never seem to give up the fight.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Waiting for a wheelchair - and a bizarre partnership

Chaya in her old (and current)
It's been six months since we lodged all the paperwork necessary to convince the Ministry of Health to approve a new, subsidized wheelchair for my daughter Chaya.

In the meantime, she continues to spend most of her waking hours in the ill-suited, uncomfortable wheelchair selected for us by the "seating expert"/physio-theraist in her school ten years ago. 

At our request, our current seating expert (she works at a rehabilitative hospital) who selected the new wheelchair inquired again about the delay. She wrote us that the reply from the Ministry of Health was:
"The treatment requested has been delayed and that they promised to hurry."
Now, even if a wheelchair were delivered to our door tomorrow, it couldn't count as "hurrying". Of course, we are bracing ourselves for a further interminable wait.

And after a two week phone pursuit, we finally landed the physiotherapist from our Kupat Holim (health fund). He showed up last week and put Chaya through his routine of extremity stretches, advising us to do them with her every day. He said he would return in a month since we're only entitled to 12 sessions per year from the Kupah.

When my husband requested that he recommend hydrotherapy for Chaya, he poo-pooed its benefits since, after all, Chaya "doesn't live in water". That's the same response, verbatim, that he gave us a year ago. 

Chaya in the hands of the Kupah
So once again, my husband patiently educated him about the phenomenal benefits our daughter derives from hydrotherapy. And once again, he agreed to recommend that the Kupah allot her their maximum of 6 sessions.

That's per year! (Note: Chaya can't get any hydro from the Kupah without his recommendation).

Yes, it is somewhat Kafkaesque trying to keep your severely disabled child at home rather than locking her away in an institution. This is particularly true in a country as enamored with the institutionalization of people with disabilities as Israel is.

I was shocked to learn this week that Israel admits representative of Aleh, Israel’s leading chain of large, closed institutions, into our school classrooms to "educate" pupils about disabilities. So, we have our most impressionable population being taught that "inclusion" equals isolating people with disabilities from both families and communities.

Here is what Aleh's website says about that brainwashing program:
“We couldn’t be prouder of this program, which is the fulfillment of a dream for ALEH. Working together with the Ministry of Education, we are educating towards change on a grand scale and seeing immediate results countrywide,” said Avi Wortzman, Director General of ALEH’s rehabilitative village in the Negev and the brains behind the Tikkun Olam program.
The benefit that he raved about was "a noticeable spike in youth-led volunteerism and social activism initiatives."

My apoplexy peaked when I read that
"to increase Tikkun Olam’s geographic reach and professional depth, ALEH partnered with non-profit organizations Makom L’Kulam (“A Place for Everyone”) and Negishut Yisrael (“Access Israel”), both leading voices in the fight for disability rights in Israel." [Source]
Et tu, advocates for the disabled?

I have written to Makom L'Kulam about this bizarre partnership. I will share with you any response I receive from them.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

For too many, a deal that is forgotten history

As many readers of my occasional articles will probably know, the Shalit Deal haunts me every day. It constitutes what was probably the worst travesty of justice ever perpetrated by an Israeli leader. And it resulted in the freedom of Ahlam Tamimi, my daughter Malki’s murderer in the Sbarro massacre.
Thanks to that outrage, Tamimi lives a comfortable life in Amman, Jordan, where she brazenly incites millions of Muslims to terrorism with utter impunity [see “21-Nov-17: Mass-murdering Charles Manson and mass-murdering Ahlam Tamimi: Who’s more monstrous?”]
For most Israelis, however, the Shalit Deal is forgotten history.
Nevertheless, for several hours last week, the local press was abuzz with it courtesy of ex- Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Speaking publicly for the first time since his release from prison six months ago, Olmert didn’t mince any words lambasting the deal and its orchestrator, Netanyahu. He was addressing a conference at Tel Aviv’s Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatefutsot, organized by the not-for- profit “Arik for Leadership” society, named for the late prime minister Ariel Sharon. The conference marked the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Latrun.
Olmert’s speech made me yearn for the bad old days when we were led by a man, Olmert, who was subsequently convicted of and imprisoned for the crime of corruption. I know, I know – that sounds absurd. But it’s undeniable: the ex-criminal spoke sanely and rationally about the release of the Shalit Deal’s 1,027 terrorists, among them convicted murderers and mass murderers, in return for one Israeli soldier. His words were such sweet music to my ears that I’m compelled to share some of them.
He revealed that he had rejected far milder demands from Hamas for Gilad Shalit’s release than those to which Netanyahu ultimately submitted in 2011:
“It is difficult to speak about the price we paid. The price that I rejected was lower both in the number of those released and in their characteristics [caliber]”.
He said that as PM he had several conversations with Gilad Shalit’s parents but said he always told them:
“You are the parents, you can ask to release not a thousand, but ten thousand. It’s human and understandable. But I as prime minister won’t do that. From a prime minister’s viewpoint, things must be looked at in a different way.”
Admittedly, Olmert wasn’t subjected to the intense pressure of an unhinged psy-cho-lo-gist/wife intent on pleasing her friends, the Shalits. As we know, Netanyahu had no such luck. In 2012, he openly confessed to the German newspaper, Bild, that his decision to buckle under to Hamas’ demands was influenced by Sara’s pressure to do so.
It is also important to remember that PM Netanayahu failed not only by brokering that egregiously lopsided swap. The very day of the mass release in October 2011, shocking revelations were reported regarding intelligence gathering related to Shalit’s abduction. Their source was a then freshly-retired senior commander in IDF counter-terrorism intelligence, Colonel Ronen Cohen. He had most recently been the intelligence officer of Central Command.
In an interview published on October 16, 2011 [Haaretz, “Former IDF Official: Shalit Rescue Efforts Were ‘A Resounding Failure’”], Cohen said that the deal constituted “a resounding failure” adding
“The IDF never took responsibility for the soldier and did not even set up a team to deal with bringing him back… Intelligence is not passive but must be activated. [In the Shalit case,] it never was.”
And on whose watch did all those blunders occur? On whose watch have at least six more Israelis been murdered by terrorists released in the Shalit Deal?
The same leader who is now entrusted with our welfare in the days ahead; days that don’t augur calm or safety.

[A version of this post was published on the Times of Israel website under the headline "The Shalit deal redux" on February 12, 2018]

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Do we want a psy-cho-log-ist leading us?

Mrs Netanyahu [File Photo]
The audio recording of Sara Netanayahu that rocked the country this week [reported and recorded here] is relevant to our outrage over our daughter's murderer, Ahlam Tamimi.

"How?", you ask.

In 2012, Mr. Netanyahu confessed that in deciding to release 1,027 convicted terrorists in the Shalit Deal,  he was succumbing to Sara's pressure.

In 2012, columnist Barak Ravid wrote:
"Only recently, several long months late, he [Mr. Netanyahu] agreed to admit – in an interview with the German newspaper Bild – that his wife Sara put pressure on him to approve the Shalit deal." ["New Info on Shalit Deal Shows, Yet Again, That in the Mideast, Nothing Is as It Appears", Haaretz, July 24, 2012
Even in the best of circumstances, any input from the wife of the prime minister in such a momentous move is egregiously unacceptable. Now, in light of the recording, we know what that "pressure" probably sounded like.

We should be shivering in our pants with the knowledge that this woman had, and still has, our lives in her hands. Thanks in part to her, several more Israelis were murdered by those Shalit Deal releasees [see "29-Jan-18: Freeing unrepentant terrorists and the horrors it has brought"]

Others, like our Malki's murderer, are still tirelessly engaged in incitement to murder with utter impunity.

Can we continue to allow the most powerful elected official in the country to lead us under the direct influence of this patently-unhinged woman?

Thursday, January 25, 2018

On voluntourism

Once again, those indefatigable Aleh PR partisans have disseminated over-the-top praise for their enterprise in the name of a foreign volunteer. And once again, that praise exhibits their gross ignorance of disabilities rights. 

This time, the team channeled its message via an American social worker and mother of a 29-year-old girl with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She is currently spending a year at Aleh Negev having left her daughter in the U.S. in an "appropriate arrangement." 

The effusive PR team dubbed her Volunteer of the Year. She allegedly said: 
“Despite being familiar with my daughter’s world, I have never encountered anything like ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran. I wish that something similar could be built in the United States.” [Aleh website]
There is no need to wish or wonder about the lack of such an enterprise in the United States. There are perfectly sound reasons for it. But like so many other volunteers at orphanages and institutions, she seems unaware of the progress that has been made on behalf of people with disabilities in just about every other developed country, excluding Israel. I have personally spoken to such well-intentioned, idealistic individuals and am always struck anew by their obliviousness of deinstitutionalization.

Here is a brief survey of that process in the United States:
For the past 50 years, the main goal of disability rights activists has been to help people with disabilities transition out of institutional settings and into their own homes and communities. To accomplish this, advocates and policymakers have worked to establish an extensive system of support services for seniors, non-elderly adults, and children with disabilities; rather than pushing people into segregated settings, the support now comes to them, in their homes.
Between 1960 and 2013, as a result of this effort, states closed 219 state institutions for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Whereas in 1977 the average person with a developmental disability lived in a place that housed 22.5 people, by 2011 that number had dropped to 2.3, reflecting a vast shift toward integration and personalization of services... [From "The GOP health care plan could force Americans with disabilities back into institutions", Ari Ne'eman via, March 23, 2017]
Once again, to all volunteers and donors to institutions that warehouse babies, children and adults in large, closed and isolated facilities, a reminder of Lumos founder, J.K. Rowling's admonition:
"Voluntourism is one of drivers of family break-up in very poor countries. It incentivizes ‘orphanages’ that are run as businesses."
Sadly, Israel, a developed and enlightened state in other respects, conducts itself in this realm like those poor countries. It ignores legislation and scientific studies. 

And for those questioning whether Aleh is in fact a business, please note the statement [here] by Israel's State Attorney regarding the financial boon that it has been to Israel's largest periphery, the Negev. 

And this:
It is not only rights that suffer in institutions — life skills deteriorate, too. Evidence suggests that exit into the community can actually improve the functional skills of many people with disabilities. The research shows that in domains like self-care, “community living skills,” communications, and social interaction, people have better outcomes after leaving institutions. In part due to these findings, the Supreme Court ruled in its 1999 Olmstead v. L.C. decision that the Americans With Disabilities Act required state Medicaid programs to offer community-based options as an alternative to anyone who wished to take advantage of them... [VOX again]