Itai Ben Dror
Suspected killer Itai Ben Dror outside court, July 25, 2010. Photo by Ilan Asayag
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After a man murdered his three children in Netanya this weekend, hasty cries to immediately identify the guilty parties, and at any cost, could be heard. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referred to the murders at the start of yesterday's cabinet meeting, while Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog announced the imminent formation of a committee to determine whether they could have been prevented.

The circumstances surrounding the crime, as well as the conduct of the welfare and mental health services toward the family beforehand, certainly warrant scrutiny. The recent determination by a psychiatrist at Lev Hasharon Psychiatric Hospital in Pardesiya that the father, Itai Ben Dror, was mentally stable and should be allowed unsupervised visits with his children must also be looked at. These visits had previously taken place at a visitation center and in the presence of a social worker.

There is no justification, however, for prematurely pointing an accusatory finger. Before the facts have been examined, it is certainly too early to determine that "the writing was on the wall" and that the family had not been cared for properly. The prime minister, cabinet ministers, Knesset members and all members of the media as well have a duty to exercise restraint until all the details are known.

The murder of children is an appalling thing, and a child being murdered by his or her own parent is inconceivable and that much more terrible, but shock is not a treatment for such cases. There have been more than a few such incidents in Israel in the past. While it's possible that a few of them were preventable, the majority were not foreseeable. Eleven years ago Erez Tivoni murdered his two children at the WIZO headquarters in Tel Aviv. In 2008 Eli Pimstein murdered his daughter, Hodaya. That same year Michael Fisher, a police officer, shot his wife and their children to death before killing himself. In 1992, Marina Davidovitch killed her two daughters. The motives and circumstances of all these apparently similar cases were different, only the frustration with the murderers' success is the same.

If an inquiry committee is created, its members must focus on recommendations for the future and not only on assigning blame, which will be the focus of the police investigation into the case. While it is difficult to bear the great emotional burden of such a tragedy, a responsible society should be able to respond even to intolerable tragedies with wisdom and levelheadedness.