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Disconnected feeding tube. The mother (L) at courthouse
Photo: Dudi Vaaknin
Mother suspected of starving toddler son
Neturei Karta member believed to be suffering from Munchausen syndrome by proxy arrested after security cameras catch her disconnecting malnourished son from feeding tube; toddler's condition improving; Jerusalem welfare office set ablaze in protest of arrest

Cleared for publication: A haredi resident of Jerusalem was recently arrested on suspicion of starving her three-year-old son.

 

The toddler, whose weight dropped to a mere 15lbs, is hospitalized at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in serious condition.

 

Jerusalem Magistrates' Court Judge Alexander Ron, presiding over the woman's remand hearing Tuesday, called the affair "the worst of the worst."

 

According to suspicion, the woman – who so far has not been cooperating with the investigation – suffered from Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a psychiatric disorder which causes those affected to inflict physical harm to someone else, typically a child, in order to draw attention or to themselves. 


Psychiatric disorder. Mother enters courtroom (Photo: Dudi Vaaknin) 

 

During the court hearing it was revealed that the child was hospitalized for the first time at Hadassah Mount Scopus Hospital in September 2007, at the age of 19 months, with a fever and inflamed oral wounds. He refused to eat or drink and vomited. The toddler was released after two days and has since been admitted to the hospital on seven different occasions. He was transferred to Hadassah Ein Kerem in February 2009 and has been there ever since. 

 

The medial staff became suspicious after the child's condition showed no signs of improving despite the intensive care he had received and they installed a hidden security camera in his room. To their dismay and horror, the footage showed the woman disconnecting her son's feeding tube and in some cases pouring an unknown substances down the tube.

  

The hospital immediately alerted the Jerusalem Municipality Department of Social Services, as well as the police. The Police arrested the mother shortly thereafter.

 

Further investigation revealed that the woman is a member of the Neturei Karta community – a radical Orthodox, anti-Zionist faction. She has other children and is currently pregnant.

 

Hospital officials said there was an improvement in the toddler's condition since the mother's arrest and that he is now able to eat without the use of a feeding tube.

 

Several hundred haredim rioted on Bar-Ilan Street and at the Shabbat Square in the capital Tuesday evening in protest of the mother's arrest. The demonstrators torched dumpsters, also in protest of the City's decision to  open the Karta parking lot on Shabbat. One person was lightly injured. 

 

Social workers in Jerusalem said they were threatened by members of the haredi community for their part in the mother's arrest.  

 

Earlier in the day ultra-Orthodox residents of Jerusalem distributed flyers urging people to take to the streets in protest of the fact that the mother was arrested as she was leaving the welfare office.

On Sunday the municipal welfare office, located near the Jerusalem's Ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood was set on fire in protest of the woman's arrest. No suspects have been detained as of yet, but police investigators said they knew who was behind the act.

 

Yael Branovsky contributed to the report 

 


First published: 14.07.09, 17:26
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