Yisroel Valis: The Amona Police Ride Again?

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A few weeks ago, a Chassid named Yisroel Valis was arrested in Israel and charged with murdering his infant son. Police claimed physical signs of injury, plus a confession from the father, proved his guilt — allegedly the baby had weak neck muscles and other developmental issues, and police say the father could not tolerate his son’s “defects.” Widespread Orthodox demonstrations protested Valis’ innocence, nonetheless.

Thanks to the demonstrations, we were treated to an incredible barrage of anti-Orthodox vitriol. The basic line was that “the Orthodox want a child killer released,” despite the statements from various Rabbis that, simply put, they did not believe he was a killer. What makes the slander especially outrageous is that no credible source doubts the incredible value and love of children in the Orthodox community.

Newspapers confidently informed us recently that Rav Yosef Sholom Elyashiv and Rav Chayim Kanievsky, two of the greatest Torah scholars alive today, had issued a “psak,” a “halachic ruling” that Valis was innocent.

In our forums, one reader posted what actually appeared on walls:

Israel Valis decree

The text says, in translation:

“Holy Call” from our masters and teachers, great scholars of Israel, may they have long lives. [This is relatively standard.]

Since several of the dearest of our city (Jerusalem), among them the Rabbis of the student Israel Asher Valis, are working with all their strength to bring out the right and the truth to light, and to prove that he is clean of transgression, and to remove him from prison. Therefore we call upon our brethren the Children of Israel in every place to help them, and ever person should do what he can to work with them, and to also help the family because the expenses are great and the family doesn’t have in their hands enough to withstand the expenses. And all who help and assist shall be blessed from the Source of Blessings.

Signed by Rav Elyashiv, Rav Steinman, Rav MY Lefkowitz, Rav Karelitz, Rav Kanievsky, Rav Shmuel Auerbach, Rav G Edelstein, and Rav Meir Tzvi Bergman.

As you see, not a word about a “psak,” rather, “innocent until proven guilty.”

According to Mr. Valis himself, the “confession” was coerced, and the death of his son was a tragic accident. The title of this entry was suggested by the reader who forwarded that article to me. We don’t know if he’s innocent or guilty, but we do know he should have been released on bail before Pesach, not after. The Rabbis are, of course, right — and as usual, the anti-Orthodox media is showing its fangs.

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David
9 years 4 months ago

Moshe:

Your link is the first real evidence offered in this affair!

The report stated that there were “no signs of chronic or acute abuse on the skin of the child.” He did not say that he couldn’t examine all of the baby’s body. He was careful, though, to mention he had not yet seen x-rays of the long bones. That implies to me, at least, that he would have mentioned it if he couldn’t examine the entire body, especially since he knew there was an accusation of child abuse, and that the newspaers were reporting bite marks, etc.

Therefore, a professor who is the Head of the Department of Neurology in Tel Aviv hospital and a professor at T.A. University has tesified in writing there were no bite marks or signs of previous abuse.
Have the police or social workers shown any evidence of their claim from medical examiners?

As an aside, this is my first post to CC, I find the exchanges extremely thought provoking, mature, and well-considered.

Moshe
9 years 4 months ago

Yaakov,

What the community has failed to do is to show that the treatment of this investigation was different than any other investigation of possible child abuse leading to the death of the child. If the community would have shown that in suspected child abuse cases that lead to homicide the suspect is let free to house arrest — and in this case that did not happen, I would fully agree with you.

I think it is perfectly logical to hold a suspect in jail when there is suspicion of murder — even though one is innocent until proven guilty. I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t quote any fancy latin law terms, but I’d presume that in cases with due cause, suspects are allowed to be kept in jail until it can be determined that they will not cause more damage to society or impede on the investigation of the case. I have not been shown any reason to believe that Mr. Vallis has been treated any differently than other suspects.

Is the system rotten? Most probably.

Does that mean that there is a blood libel against chareidi Jews? Not necessarily.

Regarding the bite marks:
The fact that they were not noted in the report does not mean they didn’t exist – the baby was brain dead when he was examined, and as such I’d presume that the professor examining him couldn’t move him to do a full body exam. He was hired by the family, so to expect him to write a report that has bite marks noted is absurd. Even had he seen them, he would have left them out of the report — as he can always claim ‘I didn’t see them’. A lot of money is at stake here — all of the possible income from charedi medical askanim.

Moshe
9 years 4 months ago

Ori wrote:
The cops investigating the case have an interest in getting a conviction, and that gives them motivation to coerce a confession.

I don’t think this is correct. When there is an obvious murder, there is an intrest in the police getting a conviction – because if they did not get a conviction, there is a murderer running around on the loose. They look bad, as they are not doing their job.

When a case of abuse arises, there is a chance of the injury being accidental as well. If the police let the parent go on the grounds of the injury being accidental, they have not failed in their job. In such an instance, I do not know if there is any inherent interest in getting a confession from the father.

Lastly:
I have seen the medical reports (here: http://hydepark.hevre.co.il/hydepark/topic.asp?whichpage=9&topic_id=1867614) of the professor brought by the family to check the infant, a”h. The professor concludes his report by saying that it is possible that the injuries were not caused intentionally. He also writes that he cannot rule out that the injury was intentional. As such, it would seem that there is at least enough doubt that the police can investigate the crime, and that it may not be so clear that the father doesn’t belong in jail.

In short – I don’t know what happened – and neither does anyone else. Let the police investigate and let the father have his day in court.

S.
9 years 4 months ago

>As far as the police force is concerned, Israel is a third-world country.

If so, then the same is true as far as Israel’s chareidim are concerned: Israel is a third-world country.