Eight brothers and sisters, thought to be aged between one and 15, have been found living without adult supervision in an apartment in Tiberias. They had been without their parents for three weeks. Welfare authorities placed the siblings with foster families and relatives after being alerted by the neighbors.
A resident of the Tiberias neighborhood who declined to be identified said the children's mother had arrived with her brood at a rented apartment there several weeks ago. A woman in the area added: "One day a moving van arrived with a pregnant woman and eight children."
Another neighbor recounted that "the woman cleaned the apartment and disappeared" and that she was about to give birth and was hospitalized.
Witnesses said a man came to the apartment around the time the children moved in, but it was not known if he was the children's father. Other than his one visit, said one resident of the area, no adults were ever seen at the apartment.
Despite the relatively short duration of the children's stay, neighbors recognized that something was amiss, and one of them said he had alerted municipal welfare authorities.
One area resident said it took the city almost two weeks to deal with the situation after it was reported to the welfare department. The authorities reportedly intervened after a neighbor complained that one of the children tried to hurt him by throwing stones and a water bottle at him, and the police were called.
A spokesperson for the Tiberias municipality said: "This is a case of a family that moved to Tiberias recently and is not known to welfare authorities. With the first report [regarding the family], a range of professional staff went to the site and addressed the situation immediately. For reasons of confidentiality under which we are bound by law, we cannot volunteer information on the subject other than the fact that the incident was dealt with by the social services division, according to [the law] and emergency orders were issued under the circumstances."
Suspicion that a municipal home visitation officer had leased the apartment to the family is being investigated, although the city employee has denied this. The Tiberias municipality has said that the matter is being looked into, although the municipality has no say over the disposition of employees' private assets.
One nearby resident volunteered that while the children were living in the apartment, they "made noise and a mess." A man from the neighborhood said: "The older children were seen smoking, and I don't think they went to school in the morning." He said that he saw some of the children leaving for school without shoes or socks.
According to another neighbor, the children were not neglected. An uncle brought them food, and the older children made sure that the younger ones got to school. The neighbor said that when the police intervened, they were violent with the children.
"On one hand," another area resident said, "we suffered. They swore and talked back. On the other hand, they tried to survive, two older sisters raising the younger children alone. It was shocking." She added that "on one occasion, I saw a young girl from the family on the street at 3 A.M. with the baby, who was screaming and crying, poor thing. She didn't manage to calm him down, and it was cold outside."
Another neighbor recalled seeing one of the children leave the apartment and ask a laborer for food.
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