'Disconnection between authorities in Ben-Dror case'

C'tee probing murder of 3 children by father finds lack of coordination between social welfare and mental health services contributed.

Netanya Murder 311 (photo credit: Channel 10)
Netanya Murder 311
(photo credit: Channel 10)
Lack of coordination between various government authorities played a major part in the murders of three young children at the hands of their father in a tragic incident that took place earlier this year, an independent committee established by the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services has found.
Sharing its research Wednesday with Minister Isaac Herzog, the Pizam Committee – named after former Haifa Court Judge Haim Pizam who headed the panel – noted that while “it was not possible to predict that [the father] Itai Ben-Dror would hurt his children...
The committee found a disconnection between social welfare and mental health services.”
Ben-Dror, 38, admitted to stabbing to death his children – Omer, 10, Roni, eight and Or, five – in their Netanya home on July 24. At the time, his defense attorney, Ran Alon, highlighted that his client had been discharged only a month-and-a-half earlier from a psychiatric hospital and claimed Ben-Dror had heard voices telling him to kill his children. He had also made several suicide attempts and spent other periods of time in psychiatric hospitals over the past two years.
“This is a terrible murder and it will be very difficult for the mother and family in mourning to find much comfort in this report,” Herzog said after the findings were published.
“While we want to embrace them, we also see that this is a terrible tragedy that could not have been predicted in advance and that the responsibility rests primarily on the shoulders of the father, the killer, who murdered his children in cold blood.”
He added: “We strive to prevent as much tragedy as we can and at the same time aim to significantly strengthening the alert mechanisms for children at risk. In order to achieve this, I call on other ministries to advance already drafted legislation aimed at protecting children in danger.
This bill will allow the sharing of information of all parties and authorities, something that does not exist today.”
A similar report released earlier this year into the deaths of more than 40 children murdered in recent years by family members also highlighted the lack of coordination and information sharing between the police, education and healthcare professionals, as well as the social welfare services.
Following the Ben-Dror murders in July, Herzog told The Jerusalem Post that the main blocks to implementing a system of information sharing was the concern it “[w]ould infringe on people’s privacy and the Health Ministry fear about protecting patients rights.”
Herzog told the Post that he was in the process of pushing such legislation through and was hopeful it would be in place before this Knesset session ends.
In the last three months, two more similar incidents have taken place, most recently last week when a Ra’anana mother, Michal Aloni, admitted to murdering her two daughters Natalie, aged six, and Roni, aged four. She was also known to social services and is believed to have suffered mental and emotional difficulties.
The Pizam Committee was established in late July at the behest of Herzog together with Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman. It also included Dr. Gadi Lubin, head of the Mental Health Department in the Health Ministry, as well as some high level social workers.
Although its main findings noted that the social welfare and health services did not have the foresight to prevent the murders, the committee highlighted that there had been no sharing of information between the psychiatric hospitals where Ben-Dror was admitted and that the information had been given to social workers by the family; there was also no coordination between the center where the mother, Lilach Shem Tov, was receiving counseling and where the whole family was being treated in Kfar Yona; and that the decisions to stop supervised visits between Ben- Dror and his children was taken without the correct consultation.
“Even though there was a concern that Ben-Dror might harm himself, there was no reason to suspect he would carry out such a terrible act on his children,” said the judge.
In addition to the pending legislation to improve information sharing by the authorities, especially in cases where children are considered at risk, Herzog said he was also passing the Pizam Committee’s recommendations on to ministry’s director- general, Nachum Itzkovich, in order to have them implemented as soon and as far as possible.
In response to the report, the Social Workers Union said that the public was very quick to point the blame for the recent wave of child murders onto social workers.
“This report shows that the welfare services in Kfar Yona used their professional judgment in this case and did as much as they could,” commented union head Itzhak Perry.