What do you do when pedophiles live on the same street as your children’s playground? You call the police, right? Well, Nachlaot residents called the police over a year ago, and yet the pedophiles are still there. Not just by the playground, but spread throughout the entire community. According to the police, it’s the largest ring of pedophiles in the history of the State of Israel.
Police also say that it’s been operating for at least six years. And over 100 children have been raped and/or abused.
Some of these pedophiles have been convicted (not enough). Others are known to be pedophiles but have not been convicted due to lack of evidence (such as S, the ringleader). And who knows how many more are out there? These monsters have turned every male into a suspect, and cast a pall of terror on the picturesque streets of our lovely neighborhood. (If only the tourists knew.)
The laws against pedophiles in Israel, I’m discovering, are ridiculously lax. Which is why someone like A , a US citizen and a convicted pedophile, is able to escape extradition (he is wanted in the States for pedophilia) and live in peace a few blocks away from the children’s playground. (See this New York Post article for full information.)
Jail sentences also leave much to be desired. One Nachlaot pedophile received a five-year sentence. I laughed about it morbidly with another mother in the park yesterday (before we happened to see A stroll by). Five years is nothing! Five years is the amount of time it will take for my six-week-old daughter to become a potential victim. (Correction: After being questioned by some readers as to who the sentenced man is, I double-checked my source and realized I misunderstood. What the woman said was that a pedophile could be sentenced to five years. As of now, none of those indicted have been sentenced to jail time. I apologize for my misunderstanding.)
It’s like Sarah Tuttle-Singer wrote: Israel needs a sex-offender registry, with an internet database complete with names and photos (as in the US). Since who knows how long that will take, for now I’d settle for plastering photos of the known pedophiles around Nachlaot. However, I’ve been told that doing this would land me in a world of legal trouble. The pedophiles have rights, you know.
And so, while over 80 official reports have been filed by Nachlaot families, and it’s estimated that there are at least 20 more who have been hurt but haven’t filed, the police cannot convict many of the accused because they either don’t have enough evidence or can’t accept the children’s testimony.
Okay, so there’s not enough evidence to convict. I don’t like it, but I understand it.
But could Jerusalem’s powers that be please keep me informed about the progress of what’s going on? Are the cases moving forward? Are they still being investigated? Or have the police forgotten? Since there’s no internet database, can’t they at least organize some sort of update for us Nachlaot residents? Why am I doomed to live in terrified ignorance, darting suspicious, dirty looks at any man I see in the playground?
For a city that is so meticulous in keeping residents informed of its cultural events — like Mahaneh Yehuda’s Balabasta this past summer — Jerusalem is woefully silent when it comes to important things that could keep our children safe.
(Amidst the city’s stunning silence, there is one voice speaking out: Chana Jenny Weisberg, a Nachlaot mother, who has regular updates and advice on how to cope on her website and blog, JewishMOM.com. While the site is full of information [Warning: Reading details about the cases may cause nightmares], since it’s in English, I’m not sure if it gets out to the Israeli public.)
And where is the public? The outrage? The calls for action, for reform? Where is the media?
I mean, over 100 children reported being molested.
This is not just a communal tragedy; it’s a national tragedy, and one that will be repeated unless Israeli laws change. Unless awareness spreads. Today it’s Nachlaot. Who knows – God forbid – where it will be tomorrow.
This is the rationale of those of us who choose to stay in Nachlaot. While there are a number of families who left the neighborhood (which I completely understand), those who stay do so because we know that Israeli law will not protect us elsewhere. Pedophiles are everywhere; at least in Nachlaot, some of them are known, and those that are not known are now scared.
So I still take my children to the playground, keeping a watchful eye on my daughter (my newborn doesn’t do much) while at the same time remaining hyper-aware of my surroundings and anyone who passes by. I put on a brave face, refuse to live my life in fear, and yet lie awake in bed at night, trying to push away terrible thoughts and find refuge in dreamless sleep.
I derive some comfort from my belief that there is a special circle of hell reserved for pedophiles, but that doesn’t do me much good in this world. In this world, it’s the pedophiles’ victims who are going through hell, and we who are not victims who live in fear.
In an effort to gain some sort of handle on the situation, I choose to write about it. Maybe by spreading awareness, some lawyer or city councilman or MK will decide to take this on. Maybe if enough people write to Nir Barkat, he will do something, if not on a national level then at least on a local level. Remember – elections are coming up.
So write, talk, scream. Maybe our combined voices can make a difference. I know this is certainly not the most pleasant topic in the world. But you know what’s more unpleasant? Ask the children of Nachlaot.
Note: The point of this article is neither to falsely accuse or incite; rather, to get people to urge the government to take care of this mess. The first step would be to keep Nachlaot residents informed. The ultimate goal, to implement the equivalent of the United States’ Megan’s Law in Israel.