When Rose Pizem was born in Paris in 2004, neither of her parents had yet turned 20. And during her four brief years of life, she underwent numerous traumatic experiences.
Her mother, Marie-Charlotte Renault, was a French Jew with relatives in Israel. Her father, Benjamin Pizem, was the child of a French mother and an Israeli father. When aged one year, Rose made her first visit to Israel. That was the first significant encounter Benjamin had ever had with his father, Ronny Ron, and the first time Marie had ever met him.
The three spent several months in Israel. At the end, Marie told Benjamin that she would not return to France with him, because she had fallen in love with Ronny.
Benjamin returned to Paris with Rose, but had trouble raising her on his own, and she was periodically handed over to the welfare authorities. Marie and Ronny never married, but lived together - first in Modi'in, then in Netanya - and had two daughters, whose current ages are two years and 10 months. She was a housewife; Ronny, who had worked in the past as both a taxi driver and a garbage truck driver, recently became unemployed.
About a year ago, police said, Marie discovered that Rose had been hospitalized in France. The police are uncertain whether this was due to abuse or neglect. But either way, Marie began a legal battle to obtain custody of the child. She and Ronny sold their Modi'in apartment and used the money to finance the court proceedings in France, which ended up costing them tens of thousands of euros.
"They had a good feeling - that they were moving toward reuniting the family," said their lawyer, Revital Swid. "There was an expectation that this would be good for everyone, and especially, of course, for the child."
Last December, Marie finally won custody of Rose and brought her to Israel. But family harmony proved elusive.
Due to the neglect and abuse she had endured, Rose suffered from language and behavioral problems. She would often bang her head against the wall and was not toilet trained. She knew no Hebrew, and had trouble connecting with her mother and grandfather, who were strangers to her. Thus the couple soon began neglecting her, and made various attempts to find an institution that would take her off their hands.
Ultimately, however, they decided instead to park her with Ronny's mother, Vivien Yaakov, who also lived in Netanya. According to Vivien's lawyer, Adi Hadar, that happened soon after Rose arrived.
Hadar claims that Vivien took good care of Rose, and a neighbor who used to see Vivien and Rose out walking confirmed this. "I can't remember a time when the child looked as if something was wrong when she was with Vivien," the neighbor said.
However, Vivien did not want the job: She repeatedly demanded that Ronny find some suitable framework for the girl rather than bringing her to his mother, and his refusal caused their relationship to deteriorate badly.
"Vivien demanded that Ronny and Marie, the girl's legal guardian, register Rose for nursery school, as required," explained Hadar. Another neighbor of Vivien's added: "She was always telling me how difficult it was for her to care for the child, and how much she wished they would put in her in a nursery school or some other suitable place."
On May 12, following yet another such request by Vivien, Ronny came over in a rage and grabbed the child. Vivien never saw Rose again, nor did she receive any news of her.
Three months later, Vivien finally decided to ask the National Council for the Child for assistance. The council passed her letter on to Netanya's welfare service, which immediately faxed the letter to the police.
Vivien says she did not take action earlier, or go to the police directly, because she was afraid her son would harm her. "She began to investigate, to ask neighbors; she spoke with Ronny," said Hadar. "But she did not go to the police out of fear of Ronny."
When the police began investigating, Ronny initially claimed that Vivien was responsible for Rose's disappearance. However, investigators soon discounted that theory.
On Tuesday, a policewoman who helped search Ronny and Marie's house recounted her shock at what she found: Rose had no bed, no toys, no personal belongings at all. Nothing but a shirt and pants.
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