Herzog appoints panel to probe handling of Ben-Dror case

Father may have fallen through gap between health and social services.

netanya murder graves 311 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
netanya murder graves 311
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog announced Monday that his office would establish an emergency investigative committee to look into how a father with a known psychiatric disorder was permitted unsupervised visits with his three young children, whom he allegedly murdered this past weekend.
Itai Ben-Dror, 38, re-enacted for police on Monday how he had stabbed his children – Omer, 10, Roni, 8 and Or, 5 – to death in their Netanya home sometime between Friday night and Saturday morning.
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During an arraignment hearing at the Ramle Magistrate’s Court on Sunday, Ben-Dror’s defense attorney Ran Alon stressed that his client had been discharged only a month and a half ago from a psychiatric hospital. He claimed Ben- Dror had heard voices that told him to kill his children and that he had made six suicide attempts in recent months.
Ben-Dror, Alon told the court, had spent time in several psychiatric hospitals over the past two years.
A spokeswoman for Herzog told The Jerusalem Post that a committee would be set up in the coming days and that a retired judge would likely head the investigation into whether the social services were at fault for misreading Ben-Dror’s mental state and putting the children in danger.
An initial report from social workers in the Kfar Yona region where the Ben-Dror family was registered with social services was submitted on Monday to the ministry. It noted that the family had been receiving assistance at a family counseling center in the area but that treatment had ended there a month ago.
“This is a terrible tragedy and is very hard for any of us to talk about it,” said Nava Milner, coordinator of the Ministry’s Department of Family and Individual Services. “Of course, there are some things that simply no one can predict and in this case there were no indications that this was going to happen. It’s very easy to put out headlines in such a case but the writing was really not on the wall.”
She said that the family had received treatment at a welfare center in Kfar Yona with the goal of improving relations between the father and his children.
“The mother thought it was very important for the children to be in touch with their father even after the divorce,” said Milner. “When the contact ended with the family about a month ago, there was no indication of any extreme conditions that might require supervised visitations.”
She added that in some cases there was a problem in sharing information, especially concerning psychiatric evaluations, between the health and social welfare services. This did not happen in Ben-Dror’s case, she said.
On Monday morning, MK Danny Danon (Likud), chairman of the Knesset Committee for the Rights of the Child called on Herzog and Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman to investigate together how such a tragedy could have occurred.
“I believe that there is a lack of coordination between the two authorities,” stated Danon, who held an emergency session of his committee to discuss the tragedy. “In my view, Litzman and Herzog must sit together until they find a solution to this problem.”
Dr. Arie Bauer, director of the Health Ministry’s Forensic Psychiatry Unit, told the Knesset panel that in some cases the law prevents certain information from being shared between the authorities unless the patient gives permission.
“There has to be a change in the law,” said Bauer.
Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, executive director of the National Council for the Child, said, however, that blaming the authorities was a mistake.
“We are making a mistake by pointing the finger away from the murderers themselves,” he said in the Knesset hearing. “Of course there are points that must be fixed in the social services and I have already submitted a 22-point plan with recommendations for this, however we must always start with those who committed these crimes.” According to Kadman, over the past seven years more than 40 children in Israel have been murdered by their parents and in most of the cases the parents had not suffered from mental illness.