Court Cuts Term of Kidnapper Granny

The Supreme Court yesterday commuted the prison term of a grandmother, who in 2001 was convicted of kidnapping her granddaughter, to three years in jail.

Isabella Balfer, 70, was found guilty of conspiring with her daughter Marina to unlawfully take the child to Russia without her father's consent.

The court ruled that the original sentence of six years behind bars was too severe and that the ruling did not take Balfer's age or medical condition into account. Balfer is considering appealing to President Shimon Peres for a pardon.

Meanwhile, Yaron Rotem, the child's father, recently released a letter addressed to his daughter, Lilach, who now lives with her mother in Russia. Since the child's kidnapping, Rotem has not been allowed to see her with the exception of a brief meeting in Moscow.

"My dear Lilach," Rotem wrote on the occasion of her birthday on Sunday. "Another year has passed since everything broke loose and you're already 11 years old. This is the eighth birthday I've been unable to celebrate with you. It scares me to think how much time has passed. To me you are still 3 years and 11 months old: the last time I held you in my hands; the last time I heard you say the word 'daddy.'"

"An acquaintance of mine met you in school and told me you hardly remember me but that you remember the sea in Israel. Almost every Friday, I would take you to the beach where you'd sit on my lap in the car and we'd look through the fogged up windows at the waves breaking on the beach. It's important for me to tell you that I will always love you and that you never forget that. Don't forget me, your father, Yaron, who hasn't stopped missing you. If this letter reaches anyone who knows Lilach, please pass it on to her."

In its ruling, the Supreme Court justices wrote: "Balfer's incarceration is no condolence to the pain of the father, Yaron, who has been punished by being separated from his daughter for years. Therefore, we hope the petitioner and authorities in Israel and Russia will do everything they can to renew their ties."