By Vos Iz Neias
February 19, 2012
Jerusalem - A conference on child welfare held last week at Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Beer Sheva delved deeply into the issue of child molestation within Israel's Chareidi community, which according to conference attendees has reached "alarming rates."
Israeli news source Yedioth Ahronot reports that according to Yishai Shalif, director of educational and psychological services in Modiin Ilit, investigations into incidents of child molestation were done with the full backing of R' Yosef Shalom Elyashiv and that the problem is so widespread that "there is no day that goes by without an incident."
The fact that the Chareidi community is so insulated from the outside world only compounds the problem, according to Batsheva Sheinin, director of B'libeinu, which deals with children and teens who have fallen prey to molesters.
"A Chareidi child is taught from infancy to obey blindly without question," explained Ms. Sheinin. "Children would never tell anyone if someone behaved inappropriately because they have been taught from the youngest ages that repeating anything negative is lashon hara and is strictly forbidden."
Approximately 2000 workshops were held last year to educate Chareidi children from ages three to eighteen on preventing sexual abuse, according to Debbie Gross, director of Jerusalem's Crisis Center for Religious Women.
"The fact that this issue is even being addressed is a clear indicator that the Chareidi community has come a long way and authorities have to do their part by responding with great sensitivity to this community," said Hannah Slutzky, national supervisor for child affairs at the Welfare and Social Services Ministry, who said that ten years ago a conference like this would never have taken place.
Dr. Yitzchak Kadman, executive director of the National Council for the Child, reported that while several hundred cases of child molestation were investigated last year, he suspects that the number was considerably higher, calling the reported number of cases "just the tip of the iceberg."