Six months after the baby daughter of two Eritrean asylum seekers was stabbed in the head by an Israeli man in Tel Aviv, her parents are facing financial ruin and get no help for her treatment.
"Who would want to stab an 18-month-old baby?" asks Yardenus Yamena, 28, who cannot banish the images of the attack on her infant daughter.
"It was a Friday evening. I was walking to the central bus station in Tel Aviv. My baby was my arms, and my older daughter was holding my hand. Suddenly I saw someone hit Rakeb, but I could not believe that someone had stabbed her. When I turned around, I saw scissors in his hand, and she was covered in blood."
Rakeb was rushed to Ichilov Hospital in serious condition, where she was treated for several weeks, sedated and on a respirator.
"She was hovering between life and death, and we didn't think she would make it," says Yardenus.
Rakeb in hospital
The perpetrator, a 50-year-old man from Afula, was arrested and charged with attempted murder. "I attacked black terrorists," he told police following his arrest.
Tel Aviv District Court stopped the legal proceedings against him in February, ordering his confinement to a psychiatric hospital, but this did not end the family's nightmare.
Half a year has passed since then, and life has "become hell" for Yardenus, her husband Mulo and their two small daughters.
"Even now I can not believe this happened to us. I keep thinking about those moments, and I am still scared to go outside," says Yardenus. Her three-year-old daughter, who witnessed her sister's stabbing, has trouble sleeping and constantly cries. "She sometimes says 'she's bleeding', and is scared of the white people she sees."
After three months in hospital, during which she underwent two operations, Rakeb was transferred to a rehabilitation facility in Tel Aviv, and still continues to receive out-patient treatment there. The long-term effects of the attack will only become evident after tests results are analyzed.
Since her discharge from rehab last month, Rakeb has started to walk by herself, but with a limp. "She's not calm and she's not sleeping well. I would like her to be able to leave the house and attend a nursery with other children her age," her mother says.
Due to the complete absence of a social and welfare system for the some 51,000 asylum seekers living in Israel, the family found themselves without any rights to medical or social care. Rakeb's medical expenses were paid for by her parents' private insurance, but it is not clear what kind of further rehabilitation treatment the baby will receive.
The family is facing severe economic hardship. For the first few months after the attack, her parents were confined to the hospital and couldn't work. Her father later returned to work, but Yardenus has been taking care of Rakeb at home since her release from rehabilitation as she is not entitled to any other alternatives, such as a home for children with special needs.
According to staff at ASSAF,
the Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel, which is helping the family, Rakeb's mother and sister are clearly suffering from post-traumatic stress.
"The family is broken," says Keren, an ASSAF volunteer who has worked with the family since the stabbing. "This is a girl who was born in Israel and who was stabbed here, but the state just does not see it."