Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

6 Tammuz 5761 - June 27, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Kikar Shabbos Kidnapping Ends Well
by Betzalel Kahn

The kidnapping of a two-year-old girl from Meah Shearim by two mentally unbalanced women on Shabbos night ended bechasdei Hashem with the child being found unharmed on Shabbos morning in the Givat Shaul neighborhood. Hundreds of policemen, volunteers, scouts and search dogs had joined all-night Shabbos search efforts with the guidance of halachic authorities.

The drama began Shabbos night. A two-year-old girl took a walk with her mother and brothers near Kikar Shabbos after candlelighting. The mother suddenly noticed that her daughter was missing and began to search for her. When the father returned home from shul, the parents looked for her at home and along Strauss Street, but to no avail.

The father went to the Russian Compound and asked the police to help search for his daughter. Police tried to locate her near her home, but she wasn't found. At midnight, the police asked the ZAKA organization to assist them in their search. One of the top-ranking members of ZAKA asked an halachic authority for guidelines for conducting the search. Due to the child's age and the sensitive security situation serious misgivings regarding her life were raised, and at the directives of the halachic authority, extensive searches began.

Two special command posts were set up, one in the Russian Compound police headquarters, the other near the Histadrut building on Strauss Street. Police operations was directed by Deputy Inspector General Ilan Franco, deputy commander of the Jerusalem Police. He was aided by hundreds of ZAKA volunteers and many residents from surrounding neighborhoods.

At a certain stage, a helicopter was launched. However, its search was unsuccessful. Hundreds of volunteers searched the streets, calling out to the child by name with loudspeakers. Area buildings were searched from top to bottom. Garbage bins were opened, and every nook and cranny was inspected. However the little girl still wasn't found.

Loudspeakers broadcast the message throughout Jerusalem, even as far as Givat Shaul. Geula took on an almost-weekday atmosphere.

"It was moving to see chareidi Jews calling the girl with loudspeakers on Shabbos night. Everyone was motivated by a feeling of responsibility for the child's welfare, and followed the halachic guidelines of pikuach nefesh on Shabbos," one of the volunteers said.

Throughout the search, pedestrians in Geula were asked to come forward with testimony. One woman related that in the evening, she had seen a girl in the hands of an older woman. She said: "The child bitterly cried, `Ima,' but I didn't attach any significant to her cries, because it is a common to see a child calling out `Ima' even when his own mother is holding him." Additional testimonies were presented, and fears mounted that the child had been kidnapped.

All of the free kitchens in the area were scanned, but no trace of the little girl was evident. With the help of hundreds of volunteers, police hounds scavenged garbage bins and dark corners of neighborhood streets. But she still wasn't found.

The story neared its end at 10 AM the next morning in the Zupnick synagogue in Givat Shaul, where one of the women in the ezras noshim spotted a peculiar woman, whom she recognized from the Kosel. The woman was feeding a small child pieces of bread and giving her milk using a bottle cap. All this seemed very strange to the Givat Shaul resident, who knew that the woman was mentally unbalanced and didn't seem to be the mother of a two-year-old child.

At that moment, the car of a chesed organization drove through Givat Shaul, calling to its residents to search for the child. The strange woman asked what they were saying, and when she was told that they were looking for a little girl, she began to flee, along with her twenty-two year old daughter, both of whom are apparently mentally unbalanced.

In the wake of their flight, the women in the ezras noshim screamed to people to stop the woman with the child. A ZAKA volunteer passing the synagogue heard the shouts and the cries for help and stopped the strange woman. Police were summoned. At first, the policeman claimed that the little girl did not suit the description the parents had given. That was because the woman had changed the child's clothing. Nonetheless, the woman, her daughter and the child were taken to the Russian Compound for investigation. A short while later, all breathed a sigh of relief when the child ran toward her parents, who had been anxiously awaiting for her for so long. Within minutes, volunteers were notified that the child had been found unharmed, and that they could call off their search.

At the inquiry, the two women said that they had found the child on the street and had taken care of her all night. However, Police investigations indicate that the two had kidnapped the child at 8:30 on Shabbos night on Strauss Street, taking her from there her to an area free kitchen where they gave her food. After that, they returned home. In the morning, they took the child to shul.

The parents thanked the many volunteers and heads of ZAKA who had quickly coordinated the extensive search, following all the halachic guidelines such a situation entails.

Only a week ago, ZAKA held a special shiur on hilchos Shabbos. During the shiur, practical questions were discussed pertaining to volunteer activity in events requiring chilul Shabbos for purpose of pikuach nefesh. ZAKA volunteers will soon receive a pamphlet with practical questions and answers in this area. Many of these points are based on lessons derived from recent events.


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