The same day that a kindergarten caregiver was indicted for abusing children in her care, thousands of people demanded government oversight of daycare centers and tougher penalties for abusers at demonstrations around the country.
The demonstrations took place at over two dozen locations, including Yerushalayim, Haifa and Tel Aviv. Parents and activists chanted “the country demands justice for the children” and held up signs reading “Mother, father save me” and “Don’t abandon our children.”
An estimated 10,000 people were protesting at the Azrieli junction in central Tel Aviv. Major roads in the area — including Kaplan, Ibn Gvirol and Menachem Begin were blocked by the protests, and police are directing traffic away from the area.
A large fire broke out near the junction, and the cause was being investigated by firefighters and police.
At the Sarona market in Tel Aviv, protesters blocked traffic. At the Sarona market in Tel Aviv, police blocked demonstrators from crossing over to the nearby Government Complex, where the Defense Ministry has offices, warning they would use “riot dispersal means” against them if they tried, The Times of Israel reported. But no actual violence or vandalism was reported.
The protesters want the Education Ministry to assume responsibility for overseeing private day care. Currently, the government only regulates facilities for children aged 3 and up, when children are eligible to enter public pre-schools.
The case that came to light last week in Rosh HaAyin, which has precipitated the current uproar, was by no means the first incident of abuse in day-care centers. In recent years, numerous cases have been reported, including the killing of an 18-month old baby girl by a caregiver.
The indictment handed down Sunday lists 18 instances in which the teacher abused children, including tying them up and pulling bags over their heads in order to prevent them from crying or moving, force-feeding them, and other actions. The victims were between three months and three years of age.
Commenting on the indictment, the teacher’s attorney said that so far, “the only version we have heard is the one from police, who showed only the footage they chose to show. We have not yet heard from my client.”
The house of the suspect, located in Rosh Ha’ayin, the same town where she operated the nursery, was set afire over the weekend. Police are investigating whether one or more of the parents whose children were abused were involved. Parents, along with thousands of supporters around the country, are set to conduct demonstrations Sunday night, demanding that the teacher be prosecuted fully for her crimes. Parents of victims are also demanding that the parents of the teacher be charged, claiming that the abuse took place in the nursery located in their home, and that they were aware of the abuse.
The scandal was revealed when suspicious parents filmed footage of the abuse, which they shared with other parents and with police. On Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ordered that all nursery schools be equipped with cameras in order to ensure that future incidents do not occur.