Update on the BatEl in Bulgaria Story

Subsequent to my previous posting of 21 October 2020, more information has come out regarding the four young Israeli women who are now incarcerated in Bulgaria on drug-smuggling charges. In that posting, I sketched out my belief “that there are some missing parts to the BatEl Peretz story.” Some of the “missing parts” have been elucidated, but additional questions of a graver nature now present themselves.

As my posting of 23 October 2020 on the American Thinker website noted, an early report of the matter in the Jerusalem Post gave few details and mentioned no names, but BatEl Peretz’s family’s appeal for funds subsequently identified her.  Now, another one of the young ladies, Rivka Zuaretz, has likewise been identified by her own family’s appeal for financial assistance; indeed, I have received more than a dozen verbatim e-mails in less than three days on Rivka’s behalf.  [I cannot fault the families for wanting to get their daughters released from captivity, and shall not be judgmental of their chosen methods to secure their daughters’ freedoms.].

A Hebrew language publication article gives further details, including identifying the two remaining women as Edel Tzuref and Tzofia Yehuda.  Edel’s family is also making an appeal for funding; it also noted that BatEl had accumulated significant debt after her employment was impaired on account of injuries she sustained in an automotive mishap.

So with the further details now available, some missing information has been supplied, and some additional questions and issues are now presented.

Immediately jumping out is what appears to be independent fundraising efforts by the respective families; this stands in sharp contradistinction to how the plight of the three yeshiva students who were arrested in Japan in 2008 after being deceived into unwittingly smuggling ecstasy pills into the country from Amsterdam; in that case the community made a unified effort to get all three of the boys freed.  Cooperation and coordination are key themes in military training, and played a major role in the stories of those who survived the Nazi Holocaust.

There are, of course, valid reasons to have individualized defense theories, strategies, and legal counsel where multiple criminal defendants are implicated in a single criminal incident, but the fact that the Chesed Fund website shnor for Rivka did not begin until about two weeks after the Chesed Fund website shnor for BatEl belies an absence of the singular enterprise that coalesced together in the Japanese ecstasy smuggling case.

The father of one of the girls asks that his daughter and her friends not be judged by those who do not know the full story:

“]אני מתחנן בפני האנשים אל תשפטו את הבנות עד שלא תגיעו למקומן. משחירים אותן בפייסבוק, טוקבקיסטים משמיצים אותן בלי להבין את הרקע לכל הסיפור. הן פעלו מתוך מצוקה כלכלית.[”

A very valid request!  But the story as to date has been presented to the public is not consistent and seamless, so one is compelled to speculate and surmise as to certain elements.

Accordingly, I surmise that a certain background dynamic is at play here.  A very recent New York Times opinion entitled “Ultra-Orthodox Jews’ Greatest Strength Has Become Their Greatest Weakness” (I myself am loathe to use the term “ultra-orthodox”) explains that the very insularity of the insular groups to which the four young ladies apparently are members no longer serves to promote their positive communal attributes when information travels at unprecedented velocities and community members lack access to current information, whether by chance or by design.

It accordingly now falls upon parents to take the initiative to inform their children regarding various matters heretofore too touchy and sensitive to discuss.  As Mordechai Tzivin, an attorney who did much to secure the release of the three yeshiva boys in the Japan ecstasy affair (and who is now involved in the cases of the four girls arrested in Bulgaria) has admonished, “Instead of relying on police or court punishments or verdicts, teach your children to be wary of strangers offering them a free lunch.”

My own speculation and surmise is that the social norms of the insular religious communities make it difficult for parents to explain such matters to their children.

Hopefully, BatEl, Rivka, Edel, and Tzofia will soon return home; when they do, they will be uniquely postured to help enable parents and children to have that conversation.

About the Author
Born in Philadelphia, Kenneth lived on Long Island and made Aliyah to Israel. Professionally, he worked as a lawyer in the USA (including as an attorney for the Internal Revenue Service), a college professor and an analyst for the U.S. Department of Defense. He's also a writer and a traveler.
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