'No punishment can atone for the magnitude of the disaster'

10 years in prison for drunk driver who killed 12-year-old cyclist on Yom Kippur

Eran Azoulay, 46, ordered to pay compensation to family of Barak Houry, killed in 2021; defense lawyer raps tradition of holy day biking, says child shouldn’t have been on highway

Barak Khoury, 12, was killed when riding his bicycle and hit by a car on Yom Kippur, September 15, 2021 (Courtesy)
Barak Khoury, 12, was killed when riding his bicycle and hit by a car on Yom Kippur, September 15, 2021 (Courtesy)

Tel Aviv District Court sentenced a man on Monday to 10 years in prison for killing a 12-year-old boy while driving drunk on Yom Kippur in 2021.

Eran Azoulay, 46, was also ordered to pay a fine of NIS 20,000 ($5,400) and NIS 150,000 ($41,000) in compensation to the family of Barak Houry, a resident of Ramat Gan.

Houry was killed while riding his bicycle on Route 4 near the town of Givat Shmuel in the center of the country on the evening of Yom Kippur when Azoulay slammed his vehicle into him.

Judge Zion Kapah ruled that in addition to the jail term and fine, Azoulay’s driving license would be revoked for 20 years.

According to reports, Azoulay has 41 previous convictions for driving offenses, including drunk driving. Handing down the sentence Kapah said he took into consideration Azoulay’s previous offenses, including two for driving while intoxicated.

Azoulay’s attorney said he will appeal the ruling.

Eran Azoulay, suspected of fatally running over a 12-year-old boy while drunk driving on Yom Kippur, at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court, September 17, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Houry’s family welcomed the sentence, saying in a statement: “The serious acts committed by the accused required a severe and appropriate punishment, as determined today.”

“No punishment in the world can atone for the magnitude of the disaster that the accused brought upon us and for taking the life of our beloved Barak, and we hope that the unequivocal sentence will prevent other families from experiencing the terrible tragedy that the accused caused to Barak and to us,” the statement read.

Azoulay’s attorney David Golomb said, “The punishment is disproportionate and required an appeal to the Supreme Court.”

Golomb told the Kan public broadcaster that the appeal will challenge the accepted social convention that children can ride bicycles on roads, including a major highway like Route 4, on Yom Kippur.

“Parents are responsible for allowing a 12-year-old child to ride on Route 4, part of which was dark. The punishment is excessive by any standard,” he said.

Azoulay was convicted last January of reckless homicide and driving under the influence of intoxicating drinks.

At the ruling the presiding judge said “The accused took an unreasonable risk…both by drinking alcohol before driving, and by ignoring the fact that he also knows about the social convention and the possibility of finding cyclists on the road, and by driving ‘blind’ on the road when optimal conditions were available to him.”

Following the crash, police detected over twice the legal limit of alcohol on Azoulay’s breath.

Barak Houry, 12, sits next to a small-scale model of a fire-fighting robot concept he built on his own. Houry was killed while riding his bike on Yom Kippur on September 15, 2021. (Courtesy of the Houry family)

The deadly crash occurred on Yom Kippur when Israelis often fill the streets, taking advantage of the generally deserted roads and highways.

Houry was rushed to the Beilinson Hospital in nearby Petah Tikva in critical condition, where doctors later pronounced his death. Paramedics said in a statement that the boy was wearing a helmet and protective gear when he was hit.

Azoulay maintained in questioning that Houry appeared from nowhere and he could not prevent the crash.

However, eyewitnesses from the scene have said that the driver was speeding without caution, despite the fact that the streets were filled with people on bicycles, many of them children.

Houry, described by those who knew him as an immensely talented boy, died about a month before he was to celebrate his bar mitzvah.

Following his death, the Houry family launched a fundraising campaign to bring to life a project he was working on for the previous year — an automated fire-fighting robot that can detect fires and extinguish them, saving human lives in the process.

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