'Boy must be transferred from Hadassah'

Froelich: We'll protest if 'starved boy' remains in Ein Kerem; Hospital deputy head receives death threats.

haredi protests 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
haredi protests 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
A day after a senior Hadassah Medical Organization official received telephone death threats over the case of the haredi mother suspected of starving her three-year-old son, sources close to the woman said on Monday that tensions would be eased if the boy were hospitalized in a different medical institution. Rabbi Avraham Froelich, a prominent haredi lobbyist who posted the bail of the Toldot Aharon woman, said on Monday that transferring the boy from Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital to a different hospital would ease tensions between the haredi community and state authorities. If her son were hospitalized at a different institution, the mother, believed to be mentally ill, "will cooperate with the psychiatrist and undergo a psychiatric evaluation," Froelich said in an interview with Army Radio, a day after the woman skipped a scheduled psychiatric test citing health reasons. "If the son is not transferred from the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, the demonstrators will return to the streets," sources close to the mother told the radio station on Monday morning. Meanwhile, police were taking the threats to Dr. Yair Birnbaum, deputy director-general Hadassah Medical Organization, extremely seriously, and security guards were protecting the doctor. Police tightened security surrounding Birnbaum's home on Monday. The Hadassah Medical Organization on Monday expressed its "disgust" about the threats by extreme haredi elements against Dr. Birnbaum. Birnbaum, an observant Jew with a crocheted kippa and beard who lives in a religious neighborhood, is being protected by security personnel. Other Hadassah staffers have also been threatened. Haredim have also pasted announcements on walls in their neighborhoods castigating Hadassah and handed out inflammatory leaflets outside the Ein Kerem hospital. Hadassah "calls on all factors involved to leave the boy and his health outside the discussions and arguments being carried out in the legal sector," spokeswoman Yael Bossem-Levy said. Meanwhile, Israel Medical Association chairman Dr. Yoram Blachar also denounced the threats against Hadassah, arguing that what is occurring "brings us back to those dark days in which doctors were persecuted for delivering bad news to patients." The IMA head said he was very worried about the verbal violence and physical threats and the false claims that Hadassah was responsible for the starving of a toddler. "It is slander" against a medical institution that has treated so many people of all walks of life, including haredim, and who owe their lives to the hospital," Blachar added. To attack Hadassah "causes damage to Israeli society in general," concluded Blachar, who called on the Health, Justice and Internal Security Ministries to stand behind Hadassah and take serious action against those who have been violent and spread slander. Meanwhile, Jerusalem police said Sunday that they would not immediately release footage caught by the hospital's surveillance cameras showing the woman removing her child's feeding tubes during a previous hospitalization period. The footage is a key piece of evidence in the case. "The video is part of the investigative material in the case, and has been transferred to the State Prosecution's office," Jerusalem Police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said. It was not immediately clear Sunday why police would not release the footage right away, given the denials of any wrongdoing on the mother's part voiced by the extremist haredi sect to which she belongs. The woman, a resident of the city's Mea She'arim neighborhood who is a member of the Toldot Aharon community, is suspected of severely abusing her child for the past two years, until a point where he weighed a mere seven kilograms at age three. Separately, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Sunday asked the city attorney to pursue civil suits against rioters documented by police as having vandalized city property. The city said that the rioters caused a total of NIS 1 million in property damage.