‘Hold court hearings in Leifer’s home’

Former Adass Israel School principal Malka Leifer. Former Adass Israel School principal Malka Leifer.

Israeli judges are being urged to kickstart proceedings to extradite alleged sexual abuser Malka Leifer to Australia by setting up a courtroom in her home.

Australian authorities are attempting to bring the former head teacher of the Adass Israel School back to the country to face charges of assaulting a number of students. In all, Leifer is wanted in connection with 74 counts of assault. She fled to Israel in March 2008 after claims she molested students became public.

Leifer was arrested to face extradition proceedings some 18 months ago. But attempts to extradite her are proving fruitless, as she misses extradition hearings on health grounds, claiming she suffers psychotic episodes ahead of court appearances. It has been reported that mental health experts have confirmed her panic attacks are genuine.

“To date, due to Ms Leifer’s absence from the hearings, the case has yet to progress past the initial stages,” Noam Sharvit, spokesman for Israel’s Justice Ministry, told The AJN.

The Israel National Council for the Child is now saying that if Leifer is not able to go to court, judges should get the extradition hearing moving by going to her Bnei Brak home. “Go to her instead of [conducting proceedings] in the courtroom, which is obviously too much for her,” Elizabeth Levy, the organisation’s international relations director, told The AJN.

Sharvit declined to respond directly to the proposal to relocate hearings.

Levy spoke of the pain she feels when updating alleged victims and telling them that there is no news. “It’s very hard on the victims and very hard for us to have to relay the information that nothing has moved forward – heartbreaking and frustrating.”

Meanwhile, one of the alleged victims has explained in her own words how important it is for her to see Leifer  extradited and face trial. “I cannot go on much longer, life revolves around the closure a trial will provide,” the woman wrote on the website of victims’ advocate Manny Waks.

She wrote: “The day she was arrested in Israel rocked my world, in a good and difficult way. Difficult because it brought on a fresh wave of emotions and triggers, and good because finally, finally, the Jewish Orthodox world will give validation that I and many others were horrifically abused.”

But now, “time is prolonging the dreadful, all-consuming pain as month after month after month of this perilous heart-wrenching journey, that smiling sick woman evades justice yet again and again.”

In addition to the misery of Leifer’s alleged victims, Levy said that the delays in the case raise another broader issue. “One of the things that is frightening on a larger level is of people coming to Israel and seeing it as a safe place to escape,” she commented.

Levy said: “We can’t let Israel become a haven for [alleged] paedophiles to come and escape – to live in Israel happily ever after, leaving investigations behind them.”

NATHAN JEFFAY