A bereaved mother urges state to help victims, not murderers

Five-and-a-half years after her son was murdered Yudith Mor still fights back the tears as she recalls the lack of state-sponsored assistance her family has received.

Five-and-a-half years after her eldest son, Raz, was murdered in a random act of youth violence, Yudith Mor still fights back the tears as she recalls the lack of state-sponsored assistance her family has received to deal with the tragedy. "For two years [after it happened] I couldn't work or take care of my other children," begins the soft-spoken mother, who traveled the length of the country this week to participate in the Fourth Annual Conference on Ways of Dealing with Violence in Israeli Society being held in Eilat and who was interviewed by The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. "My [four other] children not only lost their eldest brother, our whole family fell apart and we received no assistance from the state." Mor addressed the conference Thursday, calling on Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter to ensure that the families of violence victims receive essential rights and assistance. She says that the current system only works in favor of convicted criminals and not their victims. "We are good families and good citizens," says Mor, who is in the process of establishing a non-profit organization called 'Mother's Rights' to help families similar to hers. "We pay our taxes and in the end, the money goes to supporting the incarceration and rehabilitation of our children's murderers." Mor points out that the country spends more than NIS 100,000 a year per prisoner. "We have no voice from the start [of the criminal proceedings]," she says. "Accused criminals can hire any lawyer they want, but we have to accept the [state-appointed] prosecution. We are not even permitted to speak at all in the court hearing. These things need to be checked." Raz Mor was murdered in January 2003, only a few meters from his home in the rural northern border community of Granot. A soldier who had been stationed at Har Dov but was at home on leave for the weekend, Raz left his house when he heard shouts coming from a party nearby. "Some youths from Nahariya were trying to gate-crash the party," remembers his mother. "Raz ran over to help the brother of the birthday girl to deal with the teens when suddenly one of the boys pulled out a knife and stabbed him through the heart. During the court case, the judge asked the boy why he had done it, but he could not answer - he no reason at all." Mor's decision to fight for the rights of victim's families started last summer after hearing that her son's murderer was to be released from jail. "When one of his friends told me that this boy was going to be let out. I said to my husband 'what will we do? I cannot let another mother go through what we have experienced.'" Mor then called several other mothers whose children had been victims of violent crimes and arranged a protest in Jerusalem. "We wanted people to feel our pain and for the politicians to take notice," she says. The mothers protested in the capital for a week and during that time met with many high-level government officials, spoke at a Knesset panel on violence in society and shared their personal stories with President Shimon Peres. "We are asking for the rights of the families to be recognized, for them to get the necessary treatments and assistance so they can cope with this tragedy," says Mor, who adds that while she is buoyed by the progress of the City of Non-Violence programs showcased at this week's conference she hopes it will push people to take violence in society more seriously. "I expect my country to put this issue on the national agenda. We are so busy thinking about national security and threats from outside, that no one notices this social terrorism," she finishes. A spokesman for Dichter told the Post that an inter-ministerial committee had already been established to investigate ways of helping families such as Mor's and that the minister was in constant contact with the loved ones of other victims.