Editorial: The Ben-Dror killings

Sometimes the explanation is too unfathomable.

Netanya Murder 311 (photo credit: Channel 10)
Netanya Murder 311
(photo credit: Channel 10)
The mind resists contemplation. A father exploits the trust and vulnerability of his three young children to kill them in their sleep. And he performs this incomprehensibly evil act on the birthday of their mother, a woman he presumably once loved enough to share the intimacy of building a family.
Humans tends to look for a narrative, for a logical progression of events directed by rational behavior.
But sometimes the most obvious explanation is too unfathomable, too unbearable. So the mind bolts, choosing instead to focus on reasonable considerations in a futile attempt to quell an unbearable sense of helplessness.
The knee-jerk reaction is to blame the underpaid and understaffed welfare authorities. But they behaved in a reasonable way, basing themselves on a psychiatric opinion issued upon the release of the father, Itai Ben-Dror, from the Lev Hasharon Mental Health Center, which determined that he did not pose a threat to his children.
And even if the father’s visits had been monitored, along with those of over 2,000 families in which one of the parents is suspected of potential violence, he might have still managed to kill his children. In May 1999, Erez Tivoni doused his two children in petrol and set them on fire after asking for “just two minutes” alone. He did this inside a battered women’s shelter run by WIZO, after a rabbinical court granted him limited visitation rights.
The next in line for blame are the psychiatrists.
But while Ben-Dror had made half a dozen halfhearted efforts at suicide and had attacked his former wife, he had never exhibited violent behavior toward his children. The police, meanwhile, are convinced that Ben-Dror is lucid and calculated. He carefully planned the killings of Omer, 10, Roni, 8, and Or, 5, meticulously preparing the tranquilizers that he used to drug them and the knives that he used to stab them.
Paranoids, unlike schizophrenics, might be more able to plan in advance. But it is highly unlikely that this deeply psychotic paranoia was not detected during one of Ben-Dror’s many hospitalizations.
Nor is psychiatry a pure science. Take the example of B., who was convicted 11 years ago for setting fire to seven brothels in the south Tel Aviv area, which resulted in the deaths of four prostitutes. The psychiatrist consulted by the state prosecutor found B. to be sane, but B.’s psychiatrist ruled that he was not.
Another psychiatrist appointed by the state sided with the prosecutor, but inconsistencies in his testimony led to the creation of a special committee of psychiatrists who ruled that B. was insane. Nevertheless, the Tel Aviv District Court judge rejected the findings and convicted B. The case was later overturned by the High Court. Now B. is back home after a stint in Abarbanel Mental Health Center.
WE SEEK to place blame because the truth is often much more difficult to accept – and the truth in this context is that there are bona fide evil individuals like Ben-Dror wandering around among us, and sometimes we can do nothing to stop them.
It is healthy human nature to strive to prevent bad people from carrying out their wicked designs. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu gave expression to this deep-seated desire at the opening of this week’s cabinet meeting: “As the government we are called on to do our utmost to prevent such deeds,” he said.
But sometimes these deeds, no matter how much we would like to, cannot be prevented.
One thing that can be done is to make sure that Ben- Dror is not allowed to hide behind the claim of “insanity.” He is already playing the part of the lunatic, claiming “voices” told him to kill his children.
But if the man was fit enough to be allowed full visitation rights, he should be fit enough to be held responsible for his actions.
Paradoxically, the more horrific the crime, the more likely the perpetrator to claim insanity, cynically exploiting the public’s inability to fathom his inhuman deeds. Though the mind resists, we must gaze with open-eyed clarity on Ben-Dror for who he is. He is a cold-blooded killer who should be locked away forever, and his former wife granted the minuscule consolation that justice was dealt.