Preschool teacher's detention extended in latest child abuse scandal

"We didn't think we were dealing with a 'criminal' - you won't find a serial rapist managing a preschool. Rather seemingly normal people, within their moral world, have bad sides to their character."

A DAYCARE CENTER in Jerusalem. [Illustrative photo] (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
A DAYCARE CENTER in Jerusalem. [Illustrative photo]
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The detainment of Sigal Elkayam-Weiss, a preschool teacher from Ramat Gan who is suspected of abusing children at a facility in the city, was extended Sunday morning by three days at the Tel Aviv District Court.
Before the hearing, parents of the children at the preschool waited for her in the hall and hurled harsh words at her. “Monster,” “look us in the eye,” “shame on you,” and “rot in jail” were among the taunts shouted.
During the hearing, the police representative said: “We requested a number of days of detention from the court, and indeed over the weekend we worked hard on the investigation materials. During that time many parents came and complained, and the preschool owner was interrogated during school hours.


“We are at the beginning of the investigation and asked to extend the teacher’s detention once more. It should be noted that additional incidents are being revealed, indicating the recurrent vulnerability of preschool- age children.”
Elkayam-Weiss’s lawyer, Ness Ben-Natan, was interviewed on Ayala Hasson’s Radio 103FM program shortly before the hearing.
“My client’s case is scheduled to begin in the next few minutes at the Tel Aviv District Court,” he said. “I spoke with the teacher, a normal girl who is emotionally broken but fully cooperates with the proceedings. Her value system is usually fine – she has no criminal records or police files.”
“That’s the thing with these cases,” Hasson responded. “We didn’t think we were dealing with a ‘criminal’ – you won’t find a serial rapist managing a preschool. Rather, seemingly normative people, within their moral world, also reveal bad sides of their character.”
The lawyer replied: “Some of the parents have known the teacher for a long time and saw how much she tried to help the children. She has received good feedback along with the bad feedback. There is a cell-phone correspondence between the teacher and the woman who filed the complaint, in which the complainant tells the teacher that she loves her.”
The lawyer added that “there are cases in which pressure at work leads to a person behaving abnormally at very specific moments. So far we haven’t been talking about extreme actions but, rather, inappropriate behavior that in some respects may have also been a bit aggressive. I also have children and I worry about them, and here we have something which is not a systematic phenomenon. It occurs only in certain cases,” he said.
“I once went out to shoot a story near the Dead Sea and saw a man grab a wooden stick and hit a seven-year-old boy,” Hasson recounted. “I immediately jumped out of the car, grabbed his arm and asked the adult why I needed to get out of the car in order to protect his son.
“A preschool is much more than a business: It is work with people who cannot help themselves. Those who can’t take care of children or the elderly should go work in another profession,” she said.
“God forbid if [it seemed like] I said it wasn’t terrible,” Ben-Natan stressed. “That preschool teacher expressed remorse and asked forgiveness of the children and parents, while trying to follow through with the investigation as necessary. Again, not everything is black and white. Things will clear up within a few days.”

ELKAYAM-WEISS was arrested last Friday after a complaint against her was filed with the police, accompanied by security footage from the preschool in which she is shown ostensibly shaking the children under her care, forcibly dragging them around and even throwing diapers at their faces. In recent weeks there have been a number of serious child abuse cases. Last week the 66-year-old manager of a preschool in Givatayim was arrested on suspicion of child abuse. This detention came in addition to a previous one of a preschool teacher and four assistants who were also suspected of prolonged abuse.
In addition, an indictment was filed last week against Ina Skivenko, a 23-year-old kindergarten teacher from Petah Tikva who is suspected of killing oneyear- old Yasmin Vinta.
Security cameras showed Skivenko dragging the baby with one hand as the infant hung in the air, before throwing her hard onto the floor, with her face hitting a mat. The suspect then dragged another baby, laying him next to Vinta and throwing a thick blanket over both of them. The defendant was then seen in the video lying on top of them, using their bodies as a cushion for her upper body while watching something on her mobile phone.
Yasmin’s mother, 25-yearold Dorina Vinta, spoke about her feelings after watching the video: “When I saw everything that happened there, it was very difficult for me. I saw what the teacher was doing, how the girl suffered. I just wanted to scream.”

Tamara Zieve contributed to this report.
Translated by Tamar Ben-Ozer.