Israeli daycare abuse: Mother, daughter get 5.5 years for striking kids

Footage shows how the caretakers abused the children by violently tugging their hair back and forth, pushing them to the ground, striking them, flinging them in the air and smacking them on the head.

 Young Israeli students with their parents make their way to school and kindergarten in Jerusalem on September 30, 2021. (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Young Israeli students with their parents make their way to school and kindergarten in Jerusalem on September 30, 2021.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

For abuse of toddlers that included pulling their hair and punching them, mother and daughter daycare center managers were sentenced to five and a half years and ordered to pay NIS 100,000 in compensation to the victims' families, according to a ruling by the Haifa District Court on Tuesday.

Sousan and Shuruk Cassis were convicted of physical and mental abuse of nine toddlers, some as less than a year old, at their home daycare center "Sijar and Lacan" in the northern Melkite Christian town of Fassuta between 2020 and 2021.

When one of the mothers of the victims developed concerns about the kindergarten after her son returned home with a red eye and dilating pupils, she recorded what was happening. Other parents also noted blue marks on their child's legs and nosebleeds.

How did the daycare managers abuse the children?

Footage shows how the caretakers abused the young children by violently tugging their hair back and forth, pushing them to the ground, striking them, flinging them in the air, smacking them on the head and berating them.

The ruling details the impact the abuse had on the children, many of them displaying signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Common trends in impact included withdrawal from speech, weight loss from changing eating habits, sleeping difficulties, and aggressiveness. One child presented a fear of strangers.

 PARENTS PROTEST the abuse of children in daycares, in Ashdod. (credit: FLASH90) PARENTS PROTEST the abuse of children in daycares, in Ashdod. (credit: FLASH90)

Some of the children are undergoing additional medical review over suspected damage to eyes, hearing and more. The ruling said it was not yet clear what the overall impact would be on the continued development of the children.

The ruling noted that some of the parents and siblings suffered anxiety and guilt over the situation, leading some to lose their jobs.

The court said that it sought to send a message to those that choose to work with toddlers.

A greater awareness has been given to the phenomenon of kindergarten abuse in Israel in recent years. In March, nine kindergarten teachers were arrested for abuse in centers in Judea and Samaria, Jaffa, Ma'ale Adumim, Ramla, Ramat Gan, Rehovot and Hever. In April, four kindergarten teachers were arrested in Rehovot.

Ariella Marsden and Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.