A father’s stunningly cold-blooded murder of his two children in central Israel overnight Wednesday, in a scheme aimed at avenging his ex-wife, leaves Friday’s Hebrew papers reeling.
The Israeli press also emits a collective sigh of relief at MK Meir Sheetrit’s election loss as scandalous allegations emerge against the man who almost became Israel’s next president.
Both Israel Hayom and Haaretz focus on the hearing on Thursday, which extended the father’s remand until June 19, and his adamant refusal to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
After stabbing his two children, aged 10 and 12, to death, the father turned to the police station in Ramle and confessed. The children, who lived with their mother in Columbus, Ohio, had flown in for the summer to spend time with their father.
Haaretz provides the grisly details of the murder, reporting that the father tied his children up, stabbed them repeatedly, and then slit their throats. It remains unclear whether the murder was premeditated, but police have confiscated notebooks belonging to the man, which recorded comprehensive plans to take revenge on his ex-wife — evidence that seemingly indicates the killing was planned meticulously in advance, it reports.
Israel Hayom offers information about the defendant’s history of domestic violence against his ex-wife, for which he was convicted in 2009. The paper interviews a social worker at a shelter for battered women, where the victims and their mother fled after the divorce. “They divorced, but he was still dangerous, so she requested to move in with us and later return to the US. The court approved it on the condition that the children come to visit their father twice a year,” the head of the shelter told the paper.
During that period, the children met with their father on various occasions under the supervision of social services.
“The impression of the social worker who oversaw the meetings was that he was a loving father and that he had a good relationship with the children,” a representative of the social services said.
“In the evening hours, they still laughed. They ran wildly in the yard. Played. After a long period of not seeing their father, they didn’t hide their excitement at the reunion. But close to midnight, the joy turned to horror,” Yedioth Ahronoth reports.
“How can the father commit such a merciless crime? And, on the other hand, when he gave us his identification card, there was a picture of his daughter [tucked] inside it?” said a police officer who was present at the confession.
The paper quotes a friend of the bereaved mother in the US claiming that, every time she sent the children to Israel to spend time with their father, she would worry ceaselessly.
“She knew his vengeful and violent side,” the friend said.
The mother intends to bring the children’s bodies to the US for burial, a move opposed by the father’s Israeli family, Yedioth reports.
In an op-ed for the paper, Roni Kedem, whose daughter Hodaya was murdered by her ex-husband 12 years ago, extends her condolences to the mother of the victims, and urges the public not to cast any blame on the woman for sending the children to spend time with their father.
“I went to work yesterday with lipstick and a smile,” she writes. “This is how I get by in life. Emails, meetings, consultations, WhatsApp messages, and calls filled my day. But my heart, oh my heart, was with you, the woman who lost her two children…. Be strong, my sister. And be weak too. And mourn, and get treatment immediately in every way that will help you. I am embracing you, but I certainly won’t meet you, because then my eternally bleeding wound would open entirely, and everything I’ve built, with great effort, would fall apart again, after exactly 12-and-a-half years.”
Developments in the sexual harassment allegations against former presidential candidate MK Meir Sheetrit receive ample coverage as well. According to reports, the attorney general is weighing whether to launch a probe into the incident, amid claims the MK paid off his former housekeeper to keep silent.
Both Israel Hayom and Yedioth cite a Channel 2 report that maintains the housekeeper had three incriminating recordings of the encounters between her and Sheetrit. In one of the recordings, Sheetrit is said to have attempted to kiss her, despite her vociferous objections. Police are awaiting the attorney general’s instructions on the matter, the papers report.
Yedioth states that “it’s unclear whether the police will be able to get their hands on the housekeeper’s recordings. Meaning, only a complaint filed by the housekeeper will lead to an effective investigation.”
In Haaretz’s opinion pages, Yossi Verter lambastes the left-wing lawmakers who backed Sheetrit in the election.
“In light of the revelation of Sheetrit’s secret severance agreement with his former housekeeper, it can be said that this was not the finest hour of Labor MKs Herzog and Eitan Cabel, Hatnua MKs Livni and Amir Peretz, or Meretz MKs Gal-On and Michal Rosin (the latter, former director of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel). Ultra-feminists all. It’s unlikely that this is a chapter that will feature in their memoirs,” he writes.
“Because, if Sheetrit had won — and it was close — we might have woken up Wednesday, as in a recurring nightmare, with a president suspected of sexual harassment (although it has to be said that the presumption of innocence devolves on a man who hasn’t even been questioned by the police). There could be no worse scenario. There could be no greater shame and disgrace for this country.”