Marianne Azizi writes:
The walls are high, barbed wire surrounds the top. Security is in abundance at the entrance. Cameras are everywhere – inside and outside the institution.
Jericho Dudovich (pictured above with his father), aged 13, has no phone, computer or any contact with the outside world without the permission of management.
His sister, Yamit, is locked up in another facility, medicated over and over again to prevent her from escaping, which she tried to do almost 40 times, nearly drowning on one occasion, in an effort to reach her father.
The two children were snatched from school by the Israeli police and social workers almost two years ago under the pretext that their single father was starving them, leaving them without proper clothing and preventing them from going to school. This was a completely falsehood, as evidence by the fact that the police and social workers had snatched the children from a school in which their attendance was high.
Adanim is a children’s institution near Beersheba in southern Israel. Jericho is patted down and searched often and randomly to make sure that he does not have a phone hidden somewhere.
Jericho suffers from miaclonic seizures, an extreme form of epilepsy. He was raised by his single father for eight years. He loves his father and wants to go home and live a normal life. But in Israel he is not allowed to express this to a judge – his state-appointed lawyer will never represent his views. Worse still, he is being abused in the institution at which he is being forcibly kept.
Jericho and Yamit were manipulated into believing that their father was dangerous. At the age of 10 and 11, they were denied the right to see their father, and forced to give false testimonies against him.
Jericho is not allowed a phone, a computer or free access to the outside world. His only entitlement is a weekly monitored and recorded phone call. Once he realised the game being played on him and his sister, they were separated, and he hasn’t seen her since.
Owing to his epilepsy, Jericho has been placed in a school for “mentally backward” children, another common practice in Israel. Of the 69 children at the school, Jericho is the only one who is never allowed out to visit his father and elder brother, not able to go to films with his family or do normal things.
He is punished if he speaks out. He wants his sister.
Jericho’s sister is locked in the Lynn Shusterman Institute in Israel, prohibited from having contact with any of her family members, except her mother who lives in the US.
The mother, a registered drug addict, gave the father full custody of the children nine years ago (all documented). She admits to taking cocaine, pot, ecstasy and experimenting with hard drugs. One day she received a call out of the blue from the welfare authorities in Israel, telling her that her children had been kidnapped and abused by the father. She flew to Israel and, in front of a judge, declared that all the allegations made against the father were untrue. But were the children returned? Of course not. The father has never smoked, taken drugs or drank alcohol. He raised his children successfully in the US as a single dad for eight years before arriving in Israel.
A bright child, Jericho is unable to understand why he is locked up in a facility with mentally challenged children. Born and raised in the US, he came with his family to Israel. Jericho’s father believed Israel was the place for his children. He thought it would teach them about life.
It certainly has done that. Less than six months after arriving, Jericho and Yamit were taken from their school by police and social workers and placed in institutions. The school staff immediately wrote letters to express their outrage at the snatching of the children, especially as they had been attending school regularly and were doing well. The school head and staff are incredulous that such an act took place, and still speak out and will continue to do so to anyone they can, in support of the father and the two children.
It has now been over 18 months since they were snatched, and the children are going through hell on earth.
In secret phone calls, Jericho talks to his father about what life is like in the institution. He wants to go home to the US. He has been denied his coming of age ceremony, the bar mitzvah, a gross neglect of his rights.
In the recording below, Jericho talks about the medication given to his sister and how they are erasing her mind. He explains how he was told that his father had come to the institution brandishing a knife and an M16 rifle and shooting at everyone. He talks of how he had been persuaded by the staff into believing that this was true. If it was, the father would have been charged and prosecuted. He didn’t even know about this story until his son told him.
Jericho is disgusted at all the “sick lies”. He describes how his mother gave him up in 2008. Yet all this is ignored by the juvenile court where the voice of the child is unheard.
In the recording, Jericho expresses his love for his dad, and begs to hug and kiss him every day. It is clear that the father and son have a close relationship.He describes the things that are happening to him at Adanim and, previously, at Shusterman, where his sister is currently being held.
The minimum profit made by the institutions for keeping the two children is $10,000 per month.
Jericho describes in detail what life is like behind bars in Adanim. He describes how his sister was beaten by a staff member because she did not want to eat. He describes how they put “stuff” in her food.
Jericho has gone backwards in his schooling and his mental development due to his enclosed environment, and the call is painful to hear – a family divided by lies and unable to be together and leave for the US.
He talks a little to his elder brother, desperate for information about the outside world and what is being done to help him win his freedom. He explains how he was brainwashed and made to say things he did not want to, and begs for forgiveness. He is overwhelmed by his father not being angry with him.
Jericho tells how the institution staff tried to poison him – not to kill him but to erase his memory. They put recording devices into the computer, he says, adding: “I hate it, hate it, hate it.”
He mentions a social worker at the Shusterman Institute called Alisa whom they met at least 20 times a week, sometimes two or three times a day, to brainwash them.
Instead of going to school, Jericho and Yamit were forced to work, raking leaves, washing windows and cleaning the street in 40 degrees Celsius. They told him not to talk about his epilepsy.
Jericho asks: “Can you go to the president… and also to the prime minister? Please, please. I need them, they need to help me, right?” He says he wants to tell the world he wants to go home and that they are not letting him. They won’t let him see his sister or his big brother either.
He says he gives permission to put the message out to everyone. His father promises to do his best.
When Jericho left the Lynn Shusterman Institute, they threw all his clothes away, leaving him with nothing. He talks about needing new things. But his father is not allowed into the building to visit him.
Jericho expresses his fear that when the recording gets out, he will be severely punished.
Jericho’s dad finally asks him to tell the United Nations what he wants. He answers: “I want to go home. They took me almost two years ago; my father raised us, the person who is recording me. My mother is nothing to me, as she abandoned me.”
He repeats that the social workers planned to frame his father. They wanted to put him in a special, closed jail.
The people involved in Jericho’s and Yamit’s kidnapping are currently being named in a lawsuit lodged against them in the US. A case is also being requested in the Supreme Court in Israel to continue the fight for the children’s return.