Analysis: Yet another child falls between the cracks

Analysis Yet another ch

Oz (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Leon Kalnatarov is another dead child who fell between the cracks. His name can now be added to the growing list of youngsters with tragic endings, such as Rose Pizem, four, whose grandmother tipped off police two weeks before a national search for her was launched in 2008 and whom social services implied they were not even aware of the existence of, or Michael Kruchkov, four, killed by his distressed immigrant mother, who had been monitored by an overloaded social worker. As the list of children murdered in this country continues to grow, the question of how these "cracks" came to be is less pertinent than asking whether they are actually permanent holes. And, if they are permanent faults in our society and the way it is run, does the responsibility for protecting our children now fall solely on the shoulders of parents? Two weeks ago, the National Council for the Child came out with its annual report on the status of the Israeli child, showing how reports of violence against children filed with the police had dramatically increased over the past decade. The council's research also found that the number of such cases closed or solved by the police had severely decreased during the same period. These figures stand as the backdrop to this weekend's grisly murder of Kalnatarov, seven, allegedly strangled to death by 24-year-old twins Naor and Adi Sodmi, who were known in the town and to authorities for their lewd behavior toward young children. While the Israel Association for Child Protection (ELI) said that over the past few months it had passed at least one complaint about the brothers over to welfare services - and welfare services in turn said it had worked together with police on this matter - little if no follow-up had been performed by the authorities on the aptly-named Sodmi brothers. On Monday, following a tour of Kalnatarov's hometown, Bnei Ayash, Israel Police chief Insp.-Gen. David Cohen countered that his force had operated in "the correct manner." He claimed that nothing further could have been done with the information received about the twins. And, in a fashion that is becoming disturbingly too common in these kinds of cases, he blamed a disconnection between the police and other government agencies in sharing information. At the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services, the response was similar. Director-General Nahum Itzkovitz told The Jerusalem Post that its officials had acted appropriately and that only increased information-sharing could help prevent another such tragedy. The ministry's spokeswoman recommended contacting the police for a better explanation of how these suspected murderers had slipped through the net. It's all part of the passing-the-buck mentality that has become so commonplace in this country. On a large scale we saw it happen with the Maccabi Bridge disaster in 1997, where four athletes were killed and more than 60 were injured. Four years later, this mentality also prevailed when the Versailles wedding hall in Jerusalem collapsed, killing 23 and injuring 380. In both cases, no one initially stepped forward to admit blame; neither the engineer or architects who built the structures, nor the supervisor or organizers of the specific events were willing to admit that their negligence had a part in the tragedy. The same attitude is evident in the growing number of child murders. If the police had, as Cohen claimed, acted in the "correct manner," then why did a little boy become vulnerable to known lowlifes like the Sodmi brothers? Alternatively, if the social services had done what they could to protect the children of Bnei Ayash from pedophiles, then why is he now dead? And, if the system in place has so many cracks that the police and social welfare services can't adequately protect our children from such evils, then whose job is it to do so? The only conclusion parents can draw from this terrible tragedy is that it is up to them to protect their young. Parents must find a balance between trusting the environment around them and permitting their children certain freedoms, while at the same time teaching their offspring to be vigilant and aware of specific dangers and dangerous people. In addition, as responsible citizens we must be cognizant of these permanent cracks in the system and work our hardest to get them patched up. We must take note of our own children's behavior; if they appear to be degenerates, we must admit that to ourselves and seek the necessary help.