Minutes after midnight, Shfela subdistrict police reported that a man had shown up at the Ramle police station and told officers that he had just murdered both of his children at his home on Yashresh, a moshav.
The two children, a 12-yearold girl and a 10-year-old boy, were found at the house by paramedics at 11:58 p.m., lifeless with signs of brutal violence across their bodies. Both had been stabbed to death, though specific details of how they were killed have not been published.
The father, whose identity and that of his wife and children is covered under a gag order secured by his attorney, was ordered to be kept in custody until June 19, during a remand extension on Thursday afternoon.
The children only arrived in Israel on Wednesday from the US, where they lived with their mother who had recently divorced their father. Within hours they were both dead.
The Welfare and Social Services Ministry said that the mother had been located and was on her way to Israel.
Social Services will “accompany and assist the family, including the mother,” a statement said.
As the police investigation is underway, children’s rights activists are questioning whether this incident could have been prevented.
Naomi Schneiderman, executive director of Woman to Woman, the nonprofit agency that runs the shelter for battered women in Jerusalem told The Jerusalem Post that the mother and her two children had stayed at the shelter some four years ago.
“Usually women are referred to us through welfare clinics, hospitals or the police following a domestic violence incident,” she explained.
According to Schneiderman, the mother and her two children were in a therapeutic program at the shelter for nearly a year. Furthermore, she said that in this case there was a court ruling based on a professional expert’s opinion that determined that the father was fit to see the children.
She said that this was not the first time the children had visited their father in Israel.
“We knew that the mother was concerned, a lot of women live in the shadow of continued fear following domestic violence incidents – the aim is to reach some kind of normalization in a safe as possible environment,” she said, “and she actually did achieve this for her and for her children and she was a loving working mother and functioning woman and really did the best she could for her children.”
Schneiderman explained that, “domestic violence is a spectrum of phenomena and this is an extreme and pathological case.”
“There are other expressions of violence that can be addressed and can be helped and it is sometimes very difficult to know in advance. We need to be alert and provide the best services and safety that we can,” she added.
MK Orly Levy-Abecassis (Likud-Beytenu), chairwoman of the Knesset Committee for Children’s Rights said on Thursday, “This is an act of madness and evil that the mind is unable to comprehend.”
She called on Welfare and Social Services Minister Meir Cohen and Finance Minister Yair Lapid to take immediate action to implement the recommendations of the Vinter Committee to identify children at risk, which has been delayed due to disputes between the government agencies.
The Vinter Committee, headed by then Welfare and Social Service Ministry’s deputy director general, Moti Vinter, released its recommendations in 2010, among which included the need to identify children whose parents were going through a difficult divorce or were considered high-risk due to conflict between their parents.
In addition, the committee called for increased cooperation between all relevant public services in order to grant full access to information about a child at risk.
The interministerial committee was established following the murder of a four-year-old girl by her grandfather in 2008.
“We must ensure that the professionals will have the best options to act in this Sisyphean task and hard line of work, of identifying children at risk and preventing such tragic incidents in the future,” Levy-Abecassis said.
The National Council for the Child released figures that showed that since 2003 there have been a total of 71 children murdered or killed by family members.
In an open letter to parents, Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, executive director of the council wrote, “The children are not ‘yours.’ The children are not your property. The children are not an extension of your arms. The children are not a tool and instrument for vengeance.”
Adding that “no one appointed you God to take or give life, or as His messenger on earth.”
Regarding the child victims, Kadman said that the “mercy, understanding and compassion” should be given to these children “who did not sin, and did commit any offenses, and their most fundamental right – the right to live, was so cruelly denied.”