A young Israeli doing his National Service as a police dispatcher answered the desperate call last Thursday night by one of the three abducted yeshiva students in the midst of being kidnapped, but was told by a supervisor that the call was “not serious,” the Israel Police announced Monday.
Police spokesman Rafi Yafeh said that a recording of the call was not clear, the quality was poor, and it was hard for the two staffers at the Judea and Samaria police district headquarters to tell whether it was indeed serious.
Yafeh said that each year police dispatchers receive around 10 million calls, more than two million of which turn out to be prank calls or false reports. He added that each dispatch operator fields hundreds of calls on an average shift. He added that across Israel, some 30 percent of dispatch operators are youths doing their National Service in the police.
The failure by police to take the victim’s call seriously ended up giving the kidnappers at least a five-hour head start Thursday night. Security services were notified of the call only around 3:30 a.m. Friday, when one of the boy’s parents turned up at the Rosh Ha’ayin police station to file a missing person report.
Since then, public outrage has been directed at the police for failing to notify the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the army in time.
News of the distress call was covered by a gag order, though on Saturday night it was mentioned in passing in the Israeli media after news of the call had been leaked by people in the security establishment. Reports began to circulate openly on Sunday, prompting the Shin Bet to secure another gag order.
On Sunday, after returning from the United States where he’d been since before the kidnapping, Police Commissioner Yochanan Danino made his first remarks about the call. He said only that the police would examine “everything that needs to be checked at the right place and right time.”