Herzog: Child was saved from death

Minister of welfare and social services lashes out at "lies" being propagated on the haredi street.

Isaac Herzog 88 248 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Isaac Herzog 88 248
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Minister of Welfare and Social Services Isaac Herzog on Thursday lashed out at the "lies" being propagated on the haredi street by "publicists" and "irrelevant elements" as to the circumstances behind the arrest of a woman suspected of starving her young child. "We all understand that what happened here was that a child was saved from the brink of death," Herzog told Israel Radio. "It is the utmost obligation of a state and of the police...to save him." Herzog criticized the conduct of haredi demonstrators, who for the third day in a row have been rioting and carrying out acts of vandalism in response to the mother's arrest. "This morning two welfare offices in Jerusalem were evacuated after they were torched and, in one of them, windows and glass were shattered," he said. "Whoever [did this] hurt his community first and foremost, seeing as how [these offices] treat children and families and women of the haredi public who are in need of these services." Herzog said that, while his ministry was working with police to reopen the offices as soon as possible, the safety of employees came first. "The employees and social workers there, who really do outstanding work all year long, are very anxious," he said. "It would be right for community leaders to calm the tensions and understand that in the end, they're hurting their public," he added. Speaking to Israel Radio, the woman's attorney, David Halevi, insisted that she had not treated her son in a manner that was in any way illegal. The boy, he said, was sickly and had been diagnosed with various medical problems. His skeletal condition was not a result of starvation but of chemotherapy he had undergone at the Hadassah Medical Center, Halevi said. Hadassah officials have categorically rejected such claims, but Halevi said that the truth would be made clear "in time." Dudi Zilbershlag, the family's media adviser, told Army Radio on Thursday morning that they had medical documents proving their claim and would reveal them in a matter of hours. Halevi protested the conditions his client was being subjected to, saying that while the woman, in the fifth month of pregnancy, has a history of miscarriages and has complained of pains in her abdomen, she has not been allowed to see a doctor. The defense team has requested that the suspect be released from prison and placed under house arrest due to her pregnancy. Prosecutors responded that they would only consider this once a psychiatric evaluation of the woman is conducted, a move the defense team has so far opposed. "The situation today is that our client...has no trust in the medical establishment or the police, and certainly not in the district psychiatrist," Halevi said. Chief Superintendent Eli Cohen, head of the police investigation into the affair, said that already in the initial stages of the probe, it was suggested that the woman undergo a psychiatric evaluation, but her lawyer refused. Cohen called the case extremely severe and said there was a real concern of obstruction of justice. Meanwhile, MK Meir Porush (UTJ) leveled criticism at Mayor Nir Barkat, saying on Thursday that the authorities would soon realize that they had seriously erred in the way they had handled the incident. "For 15 years, I have lived on Rehov Malchei Yisrael, near Mea She'arim," he told Army Radio. "If someone torched a garbage bin on 105 Rehov Mea She'arim, why is a Jew who lives at number 85 guilty? Doesn't he deserve to travel on the bus? Doesn't he deserve garbage collection?" The Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) urged Barkat to restore the municipality services to the haredi neighborhoods, with attorney Tal Nir telling Israel Radio that the move was "collective punishment." The city said Wednesday that the offices would reopen as soon as workers were no longer facing "life-threatening" danger, and expressed regret over the inconvenience caused to neighborhood residents not involved in the violence. The city added that the two days of rioting had caused hundreds of thousands of shekels in damage, including to two municipal vehicles and 50 garbage bins.