It happened again on Monday last week. In Dolev, a settlement in the West Bank, a girl just one and a half years old was forgotten in her father's car, trapped in an airless metal box in the scorching heat of Israeli summer. By the time the paramedics arrived, she was dead.
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Just the day before, not very far away, a 5-month old baby girl was left in a car near the settlement of Shiloh. She was only noticed after 7 hours, by passers-by. She too was dead by the time the paramedics came.
A week before, in the city of Ramat Gan, a 9-month old girl was left in the family car. Her father was taking her and her brothers, 6-year old twins, to school and daycare. But after dropping off the twins he was distracted by a phone call and drove straight back home, where he left the car in the garage. He drove to work on his scooter, leaving the infant behind. She too was discovered 7 hours later, lifeless.
And on Thursday, a 1.5-year old boy was left in a car, again by his father. Fortunately, he was saved by a medic who happened to notice him in time.
The four incidents crowded together in a week shocked Israelis to their very core.
Pundits may wonder how a "good parent" can forget the kid. But it happens, a lot, and everywhere in the world. Each year an average of 37 children die in the U.S. as a result of being abandoned in cars.
According to Beterem, an Israeli NGO dedicated to child safety, over 200 children in Israel were reported to have been left in a cars alone by their parents since 2008. Of those, 188 were hurt and 12 died. From the start of this year, there were 13 such incidents in Israel (and 21 in the U.S.). Four of the Israeli infants died.
So is it senseless tragedy? Or negligent abuse? What's to be done? Should parents who leave their children in cars be prosecuted – in Israel at least it's illegal to leave a child unsupervised, even if the law does not refer to cars specifically? Or is the pain of losing a child in such a horrendous way punishment enough?
Penalizing the horrified parents for the sake of creating a deterrent evidently doesn't work. This isn't a case of parents considering penalties before deciding to commit a crime, it's a question of distraction. And indeed no parent who had forgotten a child in his car has been prosecuted in Israel for a decade, following instructions from 2002 by the attorney general's office.
The Electric Corp invents a leash
Meanwhile, some Israelis are taking steps. Orly Levy Abekasis, head of the Children's Rights Committee in the Knesset, is working on a bill that would define cases of infants locked in vehicles as car accidents, thereby forcing insurance companies to demand drivers install technological devices to warn them if they happen to forget their child.
The minister of transportation, Yisrael Katz, proposed making child-detecting sensors within vehicles tax deductible.
The Mateh Binyamin regional council, shocked by the death of two infants in one weeks, hung signs all over its jurisdiction warning parents to take caution and keep their children in mind.
And then there are the gadgets. Israel is, after all, Startup Nation and there are technologies to remind parents their children are in the car.
True, the Israel Electric Corp is hardly a startup, but it invented a startuppy solution: a simple leash that binds the car keys to the stirring wheel. The point of this contraption, installed in most cars belonging to the IEC - but not marketed to the public - is that the driver has to separate the leash from the wheel upon exiting the car. It takes that one extra minute, which could be that minute crucial to remembering there's a child strapped in the back of the car that needs separating too.
Then there's Baby Keeper, a device invented by a Jerusalemite businessman Moshe Yerushalmi. It's basically two monitors, one for the child and one for the parent, that beeps and vibrates whenever a parent gets 10 feet away from the child.
Baby-Vox, produced by Israeli security company Inter-Vox, has sensors that detect certain noises, like a child crying, and sends distress calls to emergency services and to the parents. Perhaps most importantly, it opens the car window.
Prefer a simpler and perhaps cheaper solution? You could download the Baby Reminder application, developed by childhood friends Itay Levi and Eran Rosenberg. The app allows parents to enter their schedule, and set permanent times in which the system automatically kicks in, recognizes when the car has made full stop and reminds them not to forget their children in the car.
And even simpler and cheaper: Driver, take off one shoe. Stick it next to the baby. Forget baby and shoe? The second you step outside the car barefoot, you'll remember.
Stress can often make us forget everything and everyone around us, even the ones we love most. These doodads and apps can't relieve the perennial stress under which Israelis live. But they can help.