Eitan Biran's grandfather appeals to keep him in Israel

The grandfather of Eitan Biran, the sole survivor of a cable car crash, seeks to reverse a lower court ruling in favor of Biran's Italy-based aunt.

 Eitan Biran's grandfather arrives at Tel Aviv court for custody hearing, September 23, 2021 (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)
Eitan Biran's grandfather arrives at Tel Aviv court for custody hearing, September 23, 2021
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)

The grandfather of Eitan Biran on Monday filed an appeal with the Tel Aviv District Court to overturn last week’s lower-court ruling to send the six-year-old back to Italy to live with his Italian-Israeli aunt.

Simply by filing the appeal itself, Biran now is set to remain in Israel until the district court rules.

It was unclear how long the appeals process will take, and there could be an additional appeal to the Supreme Court.

Based on the lightning-fast speed the case has moved at to date, it could be resolved in a period of weeks. But typically, appeals can be drawn out for months.

In the meantime, Biran will reside with his aunt, who will remain in Israel until the proceedings conclude.

Police and rescue service members are seen near the crashed cable car after it collapsed in Stresa, near Lake Maggiore, Italy May 23, 2021. (credit: REUTERS)Police and rescue service members are seen near the crashed cable car after it collapsed in Stresa, near Lake Maggiore, Italy May 23, 2021. (credit: REUTERS)

According to the appeal, last week’s Tel Aviv Family Court ruling was faulty because it acted as if the Italian courts had already ruled permanently in favor of the Italian aunt, when they had only granted her temporary custody pending continued legal proceedings.

Further, the appeal said the lower court had not heard all critical evidence for discerning what was in Biran’s best interests.

In addition, the appeal claimed that the aunt had blocked the grandfather from any access to Biran in the interim.

Biran is the sole survivor of a cable-car crash in northern Italy in May. He was illegally brought to Israel from Italy by his Israeli grandfather, according to the court.

The crash caused the deaths of 14 people, including Eitan’s father, Amit Biran; his mother, Tal Peleg; his one-year-old brother, Tom; and his great-grandparents, Barbara Cohen Konisky and Itshak Cohen.

Last week, the lower court found that Biran had deeper ties and was more acclimated with his Italian family and surroundings than he is with his Israeli family and surroundings.

 AYA BIRAN, the paternal aunt of Eitan Biran speaks outside the Tel Aviv court yesterday. (credit: CORINNA KERN/REUTERS) AYA BIRAN, the paternal aunt of Eitan Biran speaks outside the Tel Aviv court yesterday. (credit: CORINNA KERN/REUTERS)

In addition, the court said the grandfather had violated The Hague Convention by removing Biran from Italy without a court ruling.

Technically, the grandfather could still seek custody through the Italian courts even if Biran had already gone back to Italy, but his chances would have been viewed as slim.

After a hearing on September 23, the lower court ordered joint custody for Eitan Biran between his Israeli-Italian aunt and his Israeli grandfather, pending a trial on the issue that took place on October 8.

Italian authorities had previously assigned Eitan’s custody to his paternal aunt, Aya Biran, who is Amit’s sister and is a doctor who lives with her husband, Or, and their two daughters, who are around Eitan’s age, in suburban Pavia.

Eitan’s family had moved to Pavia five years ago so that Amit could study medicine.

The six-year-old was illegally taken to Israel by his grandfather Shmuel Peleg earlier in September. His paternal relatives are fighting to bring him back to Italy.

Immediately after she learned that he was in Israel, Eitan’s aunt filed a request in an Italian court, where an investigation against Peleg for suspected kidnapping was opened.

Peleg’s lawyers in Italy have acknowledged that he had taken the boy to Israel, saying he had “acted on impulse,” as he was worried about his grandson’s health after being excluded from legal proceedings related to Eitan’s custody.

Eitan spent most of his life growing up in Italy, and there are indications that his parents planned to remain there, at least for the immediate future.

But Amit had brought the family to Italy so that he could attend medical school, and there are also signs that the family planned to return to Israel and raise their children in the Jewish state if not for the tragedy that occurred.

Peleg had accused Aya of keeping the child “hostage” and of disregarding his Israeli and Jewish identity.

Meanwhile, Peleg hired former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attorney Boaz Ben Tzur and well-known communications strategist Ronen Tzur, who in the past was an adviser to Defense Minister Benny Gantz. Aya Biran hired Israel Bar Association president Avi Himi.

Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.