'Israel responsible for child in Thai monastery'

NGO to Post: State accountable for welfare of child with leukemia living in Bangkok without his family; child seeks to return to Israel.

February 21, 2013 18:33
2 minute read.
Buddhist monks leave a temple in Bangkok [file]

Thai monastery 370. (photo credit: reuters)


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Israel is responsible for the welfare of a 12-year-old Israeli child living without his family for a year in Thailand, the Council for the Child told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

The story was reported by Channel 2 earlier this week. It came to light after a group of Israeli tourists was approached by the boy while visiting Buddhist temples in Bangkok. The youngster was wearing the orange robe of a Buddhist monk and spoke in Hebrew.

The boy, who was diagnosed with leukemia at age 7, had undergone successful chemotherapy treatment in Israel. But when the disease reappeared a couple of years later his parents decided to send him to a monastery in Thailand where they believed he could recuperate through meditation and Buddhist healing methods.

When he met the tourists he expressed a desire to return to Israel and to his parents.

Channel 2 interviewed the mother by telephone on Wednesday.

“Kids also have desires to eat chocolate or play computer games,” she said. “That’s why there are parents, that’s why we have to make the difficult decisions. If he comes back it means coming back to the oncology department.”

The mother expressed discontent with the Israeli health system, which, she said, had not helped her child.

“What is medicine in Israel giving me?” she asked rhetorically.

“Chemotherapy, which damages the brain, damages the ability to develop? So what? Cancer is not a flu that goes away.... People who get the disease twice are a closed case. So he has another few years to live maybe.”

She added that physicians “don't know how to heal.”

“Doctors know how to decompose the harmful elements,” she claimed. “It’s a different thing.”

Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, executive director of the Council for the Child, explained that his organization had been aware of the case before it was brought to light and had started examining the issue months ago.

“There is a moral issue here,” he told the Post. “A situation in which a child, healthy or not, is thousands of kilometers from home, without his family, in a country that is not his, with a language that is not his, is [in] a risky situation and it is not right.”

Kadman emphasized that this was a long-term stay, not a “summer camp.”

“A child needs to live with his family, with his friends, with a school that teaches in his language,” he emphasized.

“All these things go without saying.”

He added that when it learned about the story, the Council turned to the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Social Affairs.

“We suggested two things, which we still believe should be done today,” he explained.

“First, our embassy there needs to send an Israeli official to see the child and assess the situation. Second, we believe this issue needs to be brought to youth court to evaluate the pros and cons, and determine if this child should be brought back to Israel.”

Kadman added that while the case should be examined by the authorities, it is also important to respect the parents’ autonomy.

“It is the parents’ right to raise their family the way they want, but this is as long at their beliefs don’t hurt or endanger the child,” he said.

“When the child gets hurt, that is where parental autonomy ends. Regardless of this, the State of Israel is responsible for the welfare of this child.”

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