Saturday, May 19

The Jaffa Heiress

Intissar is seventeen, bright, funny, streetwise, the youngest of 10 children and until yesterday, full of hopes and dreams. A knock on the door of the small apartment where she lives, ended those dreams. Her sister's little, 3 year old, boy opened the door and several police men entered, with arrest warrants for Intissar, her elderly disabled mother and all of her nine sisters and brothers (2 of them disabled as well). That's 11 arrest warrants in one go.

Because of debts, not even theirs. Debts they inherited.

The story goes back a long time. Intissar's mum developed a mental disease, when Intissar was very young, a tiny toddler, and became unable to care for her children. Intissar's father was addicted to to drugs and alcohol. The welfare department removed all children from the home and placed them in boarding schools. Intissar was only 2 years old, when they took her from her parents' care and placed her in a home, in order to give her a chance, by juvenile court order.

Intissar's father died about 4 years ago. Junkies with alcohol problems don't live long. After his death, all minor children were returned home by the welfare department. Their mum is still suffering from the same severe psychiatric disorder she's had for many years, and not really able to care for her daughters. But Intissar is strong and in spite of many difficulties, she copes, somehow. But how can a 17 year old girl cope with her "heritage of debts"? Because that's the problem here.

In Israel, when a person dies, and he or she leaves behind money or other possessions, these are shared by the inheritors according the the person's last will or, if there is no will, according to the law on inheritance.
BUT, if the person died owing money, his or her inheritors inherit his or her debts. If the person owned a house, usually the house can be sold, the debts covered and the remainder shared among the family, the cat or dog or whoever else.
Yet, in Intissar's case there is no home to be sold, there are no possessions. Her large family lives in a tiny public housing apartment in one of the worst slums in Jaffa.

All of the children grew up in boarding schools and children's homes. They hardly ever saw their parents. Their father was interested in one thing: getting high before cold turkey sets in.
Over the years he made incredible debts. How exactly is only partially clear. Each time the water. electricity or phone were cut, he renewed the connection not by paying the bills, but by putting the new bill in the name of the next child of his 10 children. Thus, all of the 10 kids, while they never lived at home and were minors, ran huge debts at the various utility companies without knowing anything about it.
I do not exactly understand how the utility companies accept contracts made by minors who are not present at all. Minors who have been made "wards of the state" and are under the responsibility of the welfare department.
But these are not the only debts. There is an "inheritance" of over a million NIS shared by all of the family members, and arrest warrants against all, including minor Intissar (which is illegal, by the way) because of those debts.
Intissar comes form a very weak background, but she is a fighter. Life in the many homes she stayed in, has toughened her. But she has no tools coping with this. In a few months she will be 18 years old. Instead of starting a career, and doing things 18-year olds like doing, she'll be facing impossible debts, her "inheritance".
When she works, most of her salary will go towards paying those debts. She'll become a slave to her father's "inheritance" of debts.
Through legal aid, she may be able to pay off those debts in monthly instalments always facing arrest if she doesn't meet them. Career? Study? Intissar can forget about those for years to come and perhaps for ever.
There is something VERY wrong with a system that allows this kind of injustice.

Intissar is not her real name, for reasons of confidentiality. The story is true, i wish it weren't


Akiva said...

If a person passes away leaving NO ASSETS and a million bucks in debts to creditors,depending on the marriage contract,it is possible in many countries the wife would be responsible for paying off the debt in reasonable instalments determined by a magistrate or Judge after a financial enquiry into her expenses.

But to me it doesn't sound logical - if there are no assets - that the CHILDREN would be legally responsible for the million bucks debt incurred by their father or have their wages guaransheed.(sp) .

Prehaps someone familar with the law can explain.Does this come from the Ottoman era law? Is this the same as in Arab countries like Jordan?

A further question:can't the mother go to court and organize their insolvency/bankruptcy?

yudit said...

Good questions.
The mother is mentally ill. Not ill enough to be declared incompetent, but too ill to take care of her own business and that of her children.
Knowing her, she won't do much.
In a case like this, in a 'normal" country, i suppose welfare should aid her in becoming insolvent, but this is not a normal country....

As to the children's debts, most of those were incurred on them WHILE they were a ward of the court and minors, which, so it seems to me, shows the court was less than responsible in caring for them. Had they been as attentive as they should have been, there would be no debts related to utility bills put in their names while they weren't even living at home. But i don't know if the law will recognize this claim as such.
As to inherited debts, to me it seems outrageous. But it's the law...
We inherited Ottoman law, British law (from the mandatory period) religious laws of the various religions and made our own mess.
As can be clearly seen in this case .

J.P. said...

In this case the company's too did fail, if in a normal country a minor wants to order something he/she needs the approvement and signature of an adult/parent.
The father too must have forged signatures to get things the way he planned it, in my humble opinion children who were not around while the contracts were renewed can not be held responsible.
Where are by the way the copies of these contracts?

richards1052 said...

This is a heartbreaking post & thank you Yudit for opening our eyes to such injustice.

It calls to mind Dickens' Bleak House & sending entire families to debtors prison. But that was the 19th century & this is the 21st, right??!!

I wonder Yudit if you could bring this story to the attention of the media. I bet a well placed TV news story would get much of that debt forgiven by any public company involved that wouldn't much like the publicity.

Thank you for having a conscience on behalf of all of Israel. I hope that doesn't sound too grandiose.

Tsedek said...

And, here's me. Probably too naive to think that once they're being lead to a judge that judge will sit there, start laughing at the ridiculousness of this and screaming at the various departments that are cooperating in this crime. Because, in my eyes this is a crime.
If I'd be a lawyer I'd try to make the case that the childcare facilities are responsible for the father's debts. How dare they let him accumulate that much debts in his children's name while they're: 1. minors, 2. the childcare-facilities are responsible for them.

You just gotta hate Israeli criminal beaurocracy specially created to make people fall...

Elias Zananiri said...

Dear Yudit,
Regardless of whether the name is true or not, the story is appalling in a way that I really want to cover their case for television. I wonder if you can get me any contacts that lead to this family. To maintain confidentiality, please use my e mail address:
Besides, you can also call me on my phone. Just send me an e mail and I will send you directly all my numbers. Many thanks

Elias Zananiri said...

Like you, I wish the story was not true. In any case, I would love to cover this story on television for a station abroad. I wonder if you can help me get to the family. My e mail address is:

yudit said...

I have to ask Intissar (who's still a minor) and her mother who is not the easiest person to deal with due to her problems.
I'll do so but before that i'll mail you as i need to know a little more.

so this discourse will go to more private means now.

Thanks, yudit

Tsedek said...

this story on television for a station abroad.

Deeply disappointed. What good does it do to a foreign public? Taking injustice again out of the circle from which a solution must come: the ISRAELI public.

And, again, a deeply horrible injust personal story is taken into the propaganda world of external opinion-making.


yudit said...

Having selected a heavy name such as "Zedek" (Justice, for the Hebrew challenged) might perhaps suggest certain obligations to that very heavy word... justice.
Whatever its interpretation, it appears to me to have a universal value to it. Israel, the world, borders do not matter.
As such the focus on Israel or abroad matters very little.
The name of Elias suggest perhaps the Arab world. And if Elias wants to take the story out (IF Intissar and her mother agree) then, why not?
I do not expect one ounce of justice from the Israeli legal system. After all, the case against Intissar is comepletely "legal" by the country's standards, laws and rules.
Yet, international exposure, specifically in the Arab world, might, just perhapsd, bring about some help. Perhaps someone really wealthy might be moved into assisting Intissar?
Several months ago i tried to raise some money through my blog for 8 young "illegal" Palestinina children living in extreme poverty in Tel Aviv. Except for some second hand (but really nice) clothing and a heater, (thanks again to the generous donor), the ONLY money donations came from abroad.
So you call it propaganda? I honestly couldn't care less. Perhaps it is the only thing that sometimes assists in providing badly needed solutions which should have been provided by the state, but are not.
I truly couldn't care less.

Publicity sometimes brings about solutions (although i do not like him, think "Gaydamek") or forces the system to actually do something. Yes, publicity works. International pressure does too, sometimes.
Intissar is only 17 years old and burdened by debts in such a way she cannot live normally. If you know of a way to solve that problem efficiently, let me know.
If not and if Intissar selects to go public beyond my blog, then who are you to call that "propaganda"?

Tsedek said...

I am just someone who is sincerely interested in getting justice done. Without making a personal injustice into a political propaganda story. That's all.
What I would suggest? Getting your stories through to ISRAELI media-sources instead of abroad.
More people getting to know about these injustices means more people can stand up against them.
Nothing 'abroad' will do will make a change. If anything, the way 'abroad' handles it usually it will only gain the opposite by the israeli public because of the generalizing nature everything is drawn into politics of which proof exists for the full 100% everytime 'stories' are published there.

I didn't know Elias is an arab name (I thought jewish), and I didn't even think about the name, it's YOU who think it is, for me it doesn't matter who is 'what' - as long as problems are solved WITHIN the circle a solution has to arise from and not hi-jacked to outside greedy to blame sources for propaganda. If he'd be reporting about it in Israel I'd say: kol ha-kavod.

It may not yet have occurred to you that those things do not only happen in Yaffo and not only to arab-Israeli's. To get a change in this injustice it has to be addressed INSIDE the system and in an all-including manner - so as not to create discrimination AGAIN in an area where it all and only comes down to living in dignity and not being robbed by the state.

yudit said...

if you truly care, then why do you care so much about Israel's "image"?
The state of Israel does enough, more than enough, to deserve its horrid image (read: occupation, settlements, wall, the killings etc. etc.).
No PR campaign can rectify that, as reality is not PR. Reality is incredibly ugly.
Recently guards of a private guarding company (a private militia?), responsible for guarding "the wall" have started shooting at the press, a new point of depth.

Generally speaking the Israeli Hebrew and English speaking press, except for Ha'aretz", isn't really interested in "sob stories" of Israel's Palestinian citizens.

I do not expect the 'system" to solve Intissar's problem, as basically, the system has allowed this process to be created. She was a ward of the state, but instead of protecting her, she was hurt. The state's agencies didn't fulfill their task.
Her story is just one of many i know. A very ugly reality in Jaffa.
The people of Shderot have their Gaydamek and his actions can shame the state's offices into perhaps doing so, because "it looks bad" (PR!). The Palestinians of Jaffa have no one. So if their PR comes form abroad? So be it.
I completely couldn't care one ounce less.
Israel's image is a result of its actions. Intissar's story won't add much, but perhaps, maybe, for her it can make a difference.

Tsedek said...

I care about ALL 'images' - since 'images' are not reality but merely a reflection with add-on sentiments taken from one's own agenda. You may see that I'm also not 'going along' with the 'image' being created about Gaza (and the Palestinians there). Images are opponents' tools, reality is here (and in Gaza) INTERN.

I don't believe 'outside' can pressure Israeli into anything as I said before and most certainly not inside the 'system' to change. On the contrary, when pressure comes from sources that don't have Israeli's best interest (understatement) at heart to begin with it has the opposite effect and arab-israeli's suffering from the same injustices as jewish-israeli's will be taken out of the circle in which a solution (improvement of the system) has to come because they themselves take them out by addressing and letting themselves be kidnapped by foreign 'sources' that discriminate (as in take them apart from the jewish-israeli's that suffer the same hardships) them.

You either go for an all-round solution for all, or be subject to discrimination that was initiated by yourself.

If an injustice is happening to more than just one population you just don't take this one population and throw it in the hands of foreign propaganda but address the problem TOGETHER with the other populations suffering from it. It is the ONLY chance of ever reaching a solution to the situation and also the ONLY fair approach, without taking it to pieces and let everybody toy with whatever statement they want to take out of such human tragedies.

It's sad that you, reporting so detailed and efficient about these injustices, can't see that.

The rest of your references are also subject to a little more than overprojected generalizations. The army, as you very well know, is just the executing arm of the law who is made in government offices. If any change is to be expected it is THERE that people have to demonstrate against a wall, fence or whatever. You cannot demonstrate and surpass the rules of a entity that acts upon orders, you go for the ones that GIVE those orders. So, in total: demonstrating against and trespassing the rules the army has got doesn't do anything for the 'cause' - except get people in the news which is nice propaganda against the state of Israel, whom I dearly love and will defend ALWAYS (this is also an answer to your unspoken question why I don't let unsubstantiated false propaganda blemish it - there are two sides to each story - in my story Israel is the home of the jewish people and I will let nobody destroy it, if I can help it). Injustices should be cleared and everybody living in Israel should do so on the basis of equality and in a dignified manner - so your taking the arab-israeli's apart from the rest of the citizens is for me the same as extreme right-wing israeli's are doing with the arab-israeli's: separating them and preventing from them to become equal citizens in Israel. You're doing them NO favor.

Perdix said...

" So your taking the the arab-israeli's apart from the rest of the citizens is for me the same as extreme right-wing israeli's are doing with the arab-israeli's :
separating them ................ "

Dear, dear Tsedek, to my knowledge there are only Israeli's in Israel, where do I locate a species named Arab-Israeli.

yudit said...

there are Palestinian citizens of the state of Israel, who are heavily discriminated against, especially by quite a few of the Jewish state's politicians who speak openly about "the demographic problem".
Even the word "arab Israeli" is a term invented by our o so "democratic" state, to wipe out the Palestinian character and culture of its Palestinian citizens.