Babylon & Beyond

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ISRAEL: Abuse allegations roil community

April 7, 2008 |  2:44 pm

Reports of horrific child abuse in an ultra-Orthodox family have dominated the Israeli media and prompted accusations of cult-like fanaticism.

A mother of eight was indicted Sunday on charges of systematic abuse that included beating and burning two of her children, locking them in a suitcase and forcing them to eat feces in an attempt to correct their behavior.

Adding to the public outrage, the rabbi believed to be responsible for directing the abuse reportedly fled the country to escape prosecution.

Secular critics of Israel's powerful and close-knit Haredi community have called for closer scrutiny to prevent similar abuses. Others have expressed concern that the case will be used to unfairly brand the ultra-Orthodox as fanatics.

The mother has been placed under house arrest. Two of her children remain hospitalized and one child remains in a coma.

— Ashraf Khalil in Jerusalem