Thousands of people protested Sunday at dozens of sites across the country calling for state oversight of daycare centers, amid outrage over abuse of kids by caregivers after a manager at a private kindergarten was charged with harming kids under her care.
Parents and others chanted “the country demands justice for the children” and other slogans at some 25 spots around Israel, including Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel Aviv, where some protesters blocked roads in anger.
In Tel Aviv, thousands of people blocked the intersection of Kaplan and Hashalom roads in front of the Azrieli towers, a major junction, leading to massive traffic tie ups.
In Jerusalem, roads near the Prime Minister’s Residence were also blocked by protesters. The roads were reopened after several hours.
Parents waved signs reading “Mother, father save me” and “Don’t abandon our children” at the demonstrations, called days after video footage emerged of Rosh Ha’ayin caregiver Carmel Mauda allegedly tying up, beating and force-feeding kids.
The nationwide protests Sunday came just days after Ethiopian Israelis demonstrated across the country against police violence and racism, blocking roads and clashing with officers amid simmering anger over the shooting death of an unarmed teen from the community.
Protesters on Sunday were demanding that the Education Ministry take responsibility for overseeing private daycare. Currently, the government only regulates facilities for children aged 3 and up, when children are eligible to enter public pre-schools.
Parents are also demanding changes to childcare oversight laws, including tougher sentences for abusive daycare workers and better regulations for supervision of daycare centers.
In recent years, numerous cases of abuse have been reported, including the killing of an 18-month old baby girl by a caregiver.
In June of 2018, the government came under fire for the continued delay of a proposed supervision law as ministries squabbled over funding the project. The law was finally passed in December, but only mandates security cameras in all daycare centers starting in September 2020, as long as 70 percent of the parents do not object.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) July 7, 2019
Mauda, 25, was accused of systematic violence against 11 children, three months to three years old, between May 27 and June 16.
According to the charge sheet, Mauda, who ran the Baby Love daycare center, would “on numerous occasions” attack the children, including covering them with blankets and sitting on them to prevent them from moving; tying up a child “for minutes to hours”; lifting the toddlers by the arms and throwing them to the ground; shaking babies; forcing children to stand, facing a wall, for hours; hitting the toddlers with diapers, slapping them, and pulling their heads back while obstructing their breathing.
“In one of the cases, the minor was forced to eat the contents of a plate on which he had vomited,” the indictment said.
Prosecutors are seeking to keep Mauda behind bars until the end of the legal proceedings, calling her a danger to public safety.
Mauda was arrested in June, but on Thursday, police released footage of the alleged abuse, leading to widespread anger against her and protests outside her home. On Saturday, her home, which is where the daycare center was located, went up in flames in what police suspect to be an arson, and authorities banned future protests there.
The graphic security camera footage showed Mauda tying up children, force-feeding them, using blankets to smother toddlers who didn’t fall asleep and physically abusing them.
Parents spoke Sunday of seeing their children in the videos.
In one of them “she throws my daughter on the floor and force feeds her,” Naor Kahalani told the Ynet news site. “Now I know why she cried every time she came home from daycare.”
“I hope they are harsh with her, that they give her a punishment that will make sure everybody knows that raising a hand to a child will lead to the same fate,”he said. “She’s a monster. She did not physically kill them, but she murdered their souls.”
According to Hebrew media reports, Mauda initially denied abusing the children. But when she was presented with the filmed evidence, she told investigators, “I am a monster,” and “I was Satan here.”
The case emerged after Mauda hired and fired eight different employees to work in her daycare center over the past year, the last of whom alerted the authorities to the abuse, the Walla news site reported. An unnamed assistant was also arrested on suspicion that she had witnessed the abuse and may also have resorted to violence.
הגננת המתעללת האכילה בקיא, קשרה לכיסא, הכתה והתעללה בפעוטות: לפני כשבועיים התקבלה תלונה בדבר התעללות בתינוקות בפעוטון שנוהל בביתה של גננת בת 25 מראש העין. עם סיום החקירה, יוגש בקרוב כתב אישום נגד החשודה pic.twitter.com/TGejEEnrRo
— משטרת ישראל (@IL_police) July 4, 2019
An off-duty soldier suspected of setting Mauda’s house on fire over the weekend is expected to appear before judge Sunday for a remand hearing. Police said Saturday evening that they arrested the 18-year-old combat soldier from the West Bank settlement of Karnei Shomron in connection with the suspected arson.
Hebrew-language media said the suspect is related to parents of a boy who had previously attended the daycare. According to Channel 13 news, there is security camera footage of him at the scene of the fire.
“The parents of the children are angry and shocked over the grave crimes that were committed, but are not criminals and I have no doubt that a thorough investigation will conclude they have no connection to the fire,” Benjamin Malka, a lawyer for the families, told Hebrew media Saturday.
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