Parents’ dispute leaves German woman prisoner in Israel

International custody agreement rendered worthless by Israeli judge; ‘Rebecca’ has written to Peres, politicians for help.

A German-born Jewish woman who shares a five-year- old son with an Israeli man has found herself blocked from leaving the country, even though an international agreement signed by both parents and approved by a local judge states that she can leave for short visit to her ailing mother in Paris, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Rebecca (not her real name), who until last summer was living in Canada with her son, reached a custody agreement with the boy’s father, which would include her commitment to relocate to Israel for a two-year trial period and his commitment to financially support mother and son and allow them to leave the country periodically.
However, within two months of arriving here on August 8, Rebecca’s former lover – whom she first met via Jewish dating website JDate – petitioned the Ramat Gan Family Court to issue a “stop exit” order for his son, on the grounds that Rebecca might try to “kidnap” him and not return him to Israel if she were allowed to leave even for a short vacation.
Judge Esther Zitnitski- Rakover approved the order and confiscated the boy’s German passport.
“I was not even made aware of the hearing at that time,” Rebecca, a trained lawyer who also holds French citizenship, told the Post in an interview.
“I came here under the Canadian legal agreement, which includes a legal letter signed by a judge in Israel saying that this document is recognized. That agreement states that me and my son should be able to leave for a short vacation when we want, without any conditions.
“I agreed to everything he wanted, even to joint custody with him here, but now I am caught in a Kafkaesque situation without any help at all,” appealed Rebecca, who can provide a long list of legal and social bodies – including court-appointed legal aid and the German and French embassies – that she turned to for help but to no avail.
She has even written extensive letters to local politicians and President Shimon Peres in a plea for help. Except for Kadima MK Marina Solodkin, no one has agreed to even meet her.
“At legal aid they are very nice but do not seem to be able to help me,” said Rebecca, who was forced to submit her own Googletranslated petition against the “stop exit” order. The court refused to accept them because they were in inaccurate Hebrew.
Instead, in response to her protests last November, the Ramat Gan Family Court judge ruled that Rebecca could leave the country with her son, but only if she paid a NIS 400,000 security deposit in case she failed to return him to Israel.
“How does the court expect her to pay this sum?” asked attorney Eytan Lipskier, a Tel Aviv-based expert in family law, who last week agreed to take on a pro bono basis this aspect only of Rebecca’s complicated case. “It is clear from the agreement that she signed in Canada with the father of the child that she has no assets and knows no one in Israel.
“The main point here is the ease [with which] Israel is able to become a prison in a simple family dispute such as this one,” Lipskier said.
“She [Rebecca] came to Israel based on an international agreement, and within two months this agreement is worthless.”
Lipskier, who submitted an appeal to the Tel Aviv District Court this week calling for Rebecca and her son to be allowed to leave the country as soon as possible to visit her sick mother, added: “We are talking about Israel’s civil court system and not even the religious courts. The judge did not investigate both sides, and made a decision based only on the father’s claim that she had surprised him with her decision to travel abroad.”
Lipskier said, however, that there is evidence of correspondence between the mother and father informing him of the forthcoming trip.
“My main fear is that if this does not get resolved somehow, my visa will eventually be taken away from me, and then I will have to leave here without my son,” said Rebecca, who has a one-year tourist visa.
“I just don’t know what else to do. I know no one here, speak no Hebrew, have no health insurance and do not have any funds to pay a lawyer to take this case on properly.”