Israeli kids get $225,000 in negligence suit against dad

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JERUSALEM — Israel's Supreme Court on Monday upheld an international precedent-setting decision by the Tel Aviv District Court, which last year awarded over $225,000 in damages to three children who said they suffered severe emotional suffering because of their father's neglect.

Justice Izhak Englard, who wrote the decision, said it was the first time a lower and higher court have recognized emotional and psychological neglect as a basis for financial compensation.

The parents' guardianship, Englard wrote, "includes the obligation and the privilege of taking responsibility for the minor's needs, including his education, studies, and preparations for earning a living. The idea of education is as vast as the sea and as deep as its waters."

In the suit, David and Avi Amin and their sister, Sarah Amin Sharabi, accused their father, Yitzhak Amin, of having abandoned them after the suicide of their mother, Mazal, in 1965 and then cutting off all ties after Yitzhak's remarriage four years later.

After the death of his wife, Amin sent the children to live with his mother. Soon afterward, she asked welfare authorities to take them off her hands.

When he remarried in 1969, Amin and his wife, Esther, made a pact to start afresh and not include the children from their previous marriages in their new life. From then on, Amin had nothing more to do with his children. He refused to allow them into his home or to visit them in their foster homes or boarding schools.

"From the time he abandoned me until I reached the age of 18 and beyond, my father prevented me from visiting him in his home in Matzliah or any other place, even when my siblings and I appealed to him in person when we were given days off from the boarding schools and foster families we lived with," each of the siblings wrote in their affidavits to the district court.

"Sometimes my father's refusal and expulsion were accompanied by attacks, beatings, and other cruel deeds aimed at us," added Sarah.

"Throughout the time I was in boarding school, he did not come to visit me. I would come to him, and he and his wife would throw me out."

In 1988, the siblings decided to sue their father. Penniless and troubled, they knocked unannounced on lawyers' doors asking for help.

All but Jerusalem attorney Shimon Feinberg turned them away. When Feinberg abandoned his practice to become a Jerusalem Magistrate's Court judge, he turned the case over to Shlomo Kochli.

Judge Henia Stein then accepted the suit, ruling that "the responsibility for devoted parental care and cultivation are not moral obligations only and do not end with the provision of the dependent's material needs. This obligation, which is a legal one, includes the necessity to display care and feeling for the children and to show at least a minimum of interest in them."

On Monday, the panel of three justices upheld Stein's ruling and the damages she awarded the children.

Avi Amin said he "felt shivers" after reading the verdict. "Now we have to look after our sister, Sarah, who is in a very bad way," he said. "I also have been given an eviction order. My situation deteriorates from day to day."

Kochli hailed the ruling, saying it is "a revolutionary precedent in the area of children's rights and the obligations of parents toward their children. The verdict establishes the obligation of parents to take responsibility for their children's education, including their non-material needs. It defines this obligation as a legal one and not just a moral one."