A single mother allegedly brutally murdered her two small children in their Jerusalem apartment Monday morning before attempting to take her own life.
The recently divorced, unidentified 39-year-old mother – who made aliya from the Ukraine in April and lived in a modest third-floor apartment on Ein Gedi Street in Talpiot – allegedly stabbed her seven-year-old son and five-year-old daughter to death in their sleep at approximately 7 a.m.
According to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, after killing the children, the mother turned the knife on herself, repeatedly impaling herself, as her sister, who was staying with the family overnight, attempted to intervene.
“The police were called to the apartment after neighbors heard screaming and shouting from the sister of the mother,” said Rosenfeld. “The sister tried to prevent the murder, and when she couldn’t, she fled the apartment.”
Rosenfeld said police and paramedics had arrived minutes later, but had been unable to save the children. Both children were pronounced dead at the scene.
The two sustained multiple stab wounds to their upper torsos, and the mother, who also stabbed herself in the upper torso, was rushed to Hadassah University Medical Center in Ein Kerem in critical condition. She has since been upgraded to stable condition.
Due to a gag order, Rosenfeld said few details about the case could be made public, other than that the children’s father was living overseas.
“Police have contacted the children’s father and are now interviewing the sister to determine what happened,” said Rosenfeld. “The investigation is continuing.”
Meanwhile, neighbors expressed shock and sorrow that the tragedy had taken place on their normally peaceful street.
Rosenfeld said social welfare authorities had been in touch with the mother, who was struggling to care for her two children, but he emphasized that there was “no indication whatsoever that such a tragic incident would take place.”
“There were no police reports or complaints regarding this woman,” he added.
Bonnie Goldberg, director of the Jerusalem Municipality’s Welfare and Community Services Administration, told an area news organization that the authorities had been alerted to the mother’s difficulties a few weeks ago.
“She was cooperating and said she wanted to understand how things worked here in Israel,” said Goldberg. “We assigned her a psychologist, and she accepted the help.”
Dan Samuel, who lives in the building next to the woman’s apartment, said he had never met her.
“This morning the whole road was blocked with ambulances and police cars and nobody knew what had happened,” he said. “I can tell you that this is a very quiet and religious neighborhood, so no one thought it could happen here.”
Ruth, an octogenarian who requested that her last name not be published, said she had lived in the neighborhood since 1965 and had learned about the murder on the radio.
“I’ve never heard of anything like this happening here,” she said. “She must have been a very unhappy woman.”
Meanwhile, Sarah Azogui, who lives down the street from the murder scene, said she had heard the ambulances and police sirens while leaving her home Monday morning and was later on the bus when she learned what had transpired.
“I heard what happened on the radio and couldn’t believe it,” she said, adding that she viewed the murders as a national tragedy.
“I felt a lot of sadness and tragedy for all of Israel because it wasn’t two children from ‘some family,’” she said. “They were part of all of our families, and it’s sad that it happened.”
She added that the murders particularly troubled her because the timing was so close to Yom Kippur.
“It is especially painful that this happened during the High Holy Days and Yom Kippur,” she said. “It makes me angry.”
Sasson – a clerk at a grocery store less than 200 meters from the murder scene, who requested that his last name not be published – said the woman had occasionally shopped at the store.
“She used to come here, but not a lot,” he said. “She was very nice, very quiet – even shy.”
Sasson said he had last seen the woman Sunday night, when she had bought a single can of beer.
“The next morning I learned [from the TV] that she had killed her two kids,” he said, pointing to a flat-screen television mounted on the wall across the cash register. “It’s terrible.”
Netanel Shames, a 23-year-old student who grew up on the street where the murder took place, described the murder as “shocking.”
“We’ve never seen the police close off an area here, and it happened so close to my home, which makes me think it could happen anywhere,” he said. “It’s something you hope you never have to hear about.”