In Israel, Remembering One Passover Massacre, Living Another Of Father's, Children's Rights

By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency

Jerusalem, Israel ---- April 16, 2011 ...... As a professional journalist, one must be able to observe and report objectivity. From high tech, fashion and the arts to politics, natural disasters and social media. But the two areas for which veteran journalists truly dread reporting from is the battle field and the family court. There could not be two topics which are more devastating to the human soul. And no amount of press credentials and being behind the camera can buffer one entirely from the blood and the tears.

In March of 2002, this writer, by chance, was across the street from the Park Hotel in Netanya, Israel celebrating a Passover seder.

Shortly after finishing the long and heavy meal, we all heard and felt a boom. A blast of loud noise which shook every Passover seder book, wall picture and actually moved the dining table. As the lights above us swayed, we stared at one another. I knew that no construction work was going on at that hour. I knew as a combat engineer in the Israel Defense Forces that a terror attack just took place.

Within minutes we could hear the wail of ambulance, fire and police sirens as they made their way to the hotel. This seaside hotel was hosting hundreds of families for a Passover Seder dinner. They came from New York, Paris, London, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Families with young children dressed in their holiday best. To hear the story of the Jewish exodus from Egypt to freedom in ancient Israel.

As they were praying and singing, an Islamic terrorist walked past two security guards at the entrance of the Park Hotel, past the front lobby and into the main dining room. After yelling "Allah Akbar" in English meaning "god is great" he set off a lethal suicide bombers belt.

Over twenty men, women and children were murdered. Over 180 innocent Jewish civilians were injured.

As soon as I saw a breaking news announcement on Israel TV saying that there was a terror attack in Netanya, I grabbed my coat and left for carnage that awaited across the street. Those I was with begged me not to go, but as a reporter, as a messenger for Israel it was my duty to observe and report this barbaric atrocity.

It was a three block walk on a cold, chilly evening to the hotel. As I arrived, fireman were rushing in with hoses and dazed, bleeding and shocked Jews stumbled out of the hotel. I walked over at least 5 bodies that were strewn on the sidewalk. Inside, all electric was gone. Only a thick grey smoke and the sound of crying.

As I walked into the darkened dining room I witnessed body parts and blood among the dangling electric wires and broken wooden tables. The Passover seder books were ripped apart, laying blood stained on the floor. I looked for any sign of life. To help those who had survived the terror attack out of the hotel. But the police and fire fighters had already removed the living. I was now walking among the dead. Middle aged men, women, grandparents and children slumped over tables or lying on the ground.

One could only hear the sound of water dripping from the crushed fire detector sprinkler system above and the pain of those who were bleeding outside.

I told the AP that there was no life inside. People dressed in their finest suits and dresses were now cold, lifeless corpses. Hard to articulate a scene such as this let alone to find a rational reason for it to happen.

Many years later, a massacre of another sort is taking place in Israel. A massacre of loving, caring relationships between fathers and their children. For in the democratic State of Israel, thousands of good dads have had their parenting rights stolen from them. All it takes is an angry, psychotic spouse to make an unsubstantiated claim of child abuse.

If a claim of child abuse was made in London or New York, social works and forensic psychologists would be dispatched in hours to protect the child. To ascertain what had happened and if the charges were false to protect the father from a ruined relationship with his children, to protect his reputation. But not in Israel where there is very little money to investigate. Where family court judges take little if no responsibility as they pass that job onto child welfare which not having money then passes the buck back to the family court.

While this paper file bounces between family court in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa or Kfar Sava and child welfare in Holon, Ra'anana, Beer Sheva or Hadera the father is told that the only way that he can now see his children is in supervised visitation centers (merkaz kesher). Many fathers will not bow to this humiliation order by a callous family court and opt to simply walk away. Leaving thousands of children without fathers in Israel.

The massacre takes place. And this time there are no police, fire fighters or soldiers rushing in to help the wounded.

One father in Israel, David Marcus, an immigrant from Chicago living in Haifa, tells his story. This reserve officer in the IDF who saved 53 children in Haiti and advises the Israel government on public affairs has been treated no less than a criminal.

"My ex-wife hates me more than she loves our children," says Marcus. "It all began with my 9-year-old son complaining that his mother was hitting him. At first I didn't believe him and upon further questioning I realized that he was being physically abused by his mother. I asked child welfare to investigate and stop the beatings. They warned the mother to stop. If I had wanted to secure custody of my child at the time, all I had to do was make a formal complaint to the family court or to the police, but I did not want to take the mother away from the child. Just wanted the mother to stop the punching and slapping of my young child's head."

"After a month I had private detectives on me. Stalking me and at one point they assaulted me. As they were throwing punches and pushing me, my son yelled out for them to stop killing his father. Neighbors came out and photographed the assault. I was a little behind on child support, but given that my ex makes over two million dollars a year, it was never a point of contention. But she tried to use this to have me arrested several times. I made all the payments and even went to the States to secure more money from a trust fund that I have. But my ex told me that this was not about money. She proved this point when she paid two women to state that I had abused my children. These women committed perjury. All one has to do is examine my child. But that is still not good enough in Israel."

Marcus continues: "Child welfare, which practices blatant gender bias discrimination, suggested that I seek a forensic psychologist who can determine if any abuse actually took place. What they didn't tell me was that it was going to cost thousands of dollars. What father in Israel, who is paying child support, has thousands of dollars laying around? This is a poor country - one in three children live in poverty. Fathers lose their rights as parents and then are forced to find money for attorneys and forensic psychologists. Even if the father is able to find the moneys for these professionals, months go by that we do not see, hug or care for our children. PAS - parental alienation syndrome sets in. The children lose interest in a father that they do not see and fathers are harassed into finding a comfort zone free of private detectives and threats of prison. But there are many of us who will simply not give up. Our love for our children is stronger than steel and we will not allow our children to become victims of a psychotic mother. Every child deserves and needs both parents. Joint custody and equal, shared parenting urgently need to become the norms of Israel society."

One newly formed organization in Israel - The Coalition for Family - is planning to address how easy it is to remove fathers of their basic human rights in Israel with a simple claim of child abuse with no evidenced offered. They are planning with Fathers 4 Justice Israel to being in Geneva next month to lay witness at the UN Council on the Welfare of Children.

"I am now in the US trying to make my way home to Israel," says Marcus. My brother who controls my Trust fund has turned his back on me while the Rabbi of his Temple has provided me with emergency moneys for a forensic psychologist to clear my name. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. When my name is proved clean, it will mean that someone has been lying. Will that mother be dealt with for emotionally abusing her child? Will the family courts of Israel protect the child from that kind of behavior? Can the family courts and child welfare be able to determine if charges of child abuse are real or false in a matter of days - not months or years?"

Whether it is a suicide bombers belt going off or going to a school to pick up your child and being told that you can't - both are massacres of love and relationships that can never be replaced.



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