Our Jerusalem neighborhood of Nahlaot made the news over the past week, with a
flurry of reports that police have busted a horrifying pedophilia ring. Initial
arrests were made Sunday, with more expected in the coming weeks. The story is a
horrific tale of sexual and physical violence against children.
of this was news to those of us who live in the area. Since last summer we have
been hearing about pedophiles living among us. One social services worker told
me that over 100 names of abused children have been mentioned in official
interviews with children who have been victimized. Worse, he also told me that
there are many suspects still at large, including several individuals they
“know” are guilty but do not have sufficient admissible evidence to
The official also told me that sexual assaults against Nahlaot
children continues to this day.
The first complaints of rape and
molestation of children, some as young as one year old, were reported to police
in 2010. Investigators have also stated unequivocally that the families of the
victims are fully cooperating. Considering these facts, how can it be
that children are still being harmed?
IN MY role as a community rabbi, families
have told me that while the police and state prosecutor’s office admit that this
is a story involving many victims and many pedophiles, they claim the community
has overstated the problem and that we are reacting hysterically. Their crass
dealing with the issue begs the question: How many children have to be raped and
endure horrific physical and emotional abuse in order to justify so-called
As a parent and member of the community I can confirm that parents
as a whole are angry and scared. My phone rings a few times a day with people
begging for names and pictures so they can protect their children. Others call
because, if the police cannot or will not protect our children, they want to
take care of the problem themselves once and for all.
How many more times
will I have to instruct people in the laws of slander, reminding them that while
we need to take care around those accused, and at times even warn others, we are
also called upon to suspend judgment until proven guilty.
serious, I am fearful that someone might take the law into his own hands, given
our growing frustration with law enforcement bodies and authorities. I have not
heard explicit talk of that kind, but it is a natural concern in the current
situation. How long will scared, frustrated parents allow the safety of their
children to remain at risk?
So we continue to raise our children in the
neighborhood we love with an abiding sense of panic. We can no longer allow them
out of our sight, and we instinctively look askance at the people we encounter,
wondering which innocent face on the street is really a monster in
Police and the state prosecutor say they are doing everything
they can, but their dismissive attitude toward our concerns suggests they have
not taken this case all that seriously.
It is the job of the police and
the courts to protect our children from known predators who prey on innocent
children. If that is the litmus test for success, then they have failed
miserably so far. Their pathetic attempt to defend themselves by accusing
victimized families of overreacting is beyond infuriating. It is the
height of chutzpah.
The writer is a rabbi and dean of HaOhel Institutions
in Jerusalem. His new venture, Threshold (www.threshold.org.il), fostering
Jewish educational entrepreneurship.