A recent ruling in a divorce case between two Israeli parents living in Detroit has escalated into national news. On June 24, a judge sentenced three children to juvenile detention for violating an order to have lunch with their father. In theory, the children, who are between the ages of 9 and 14, could have remained at the “Children’s Village" juvenile detention facility until they turn 18. For the youngest daughter, this would have meant almost a decade in detention. On Friday, however, the judge released the three children and sent them to a summer camp instead.
Details of the entire original episode remain someone sketchy. Omer Tsimhoni works as an engineer for General Motors and his ex-wife is a physician. The couple has been engaged in a custody dispute over their three children since deciding to get a divorce shortly after the father wanted his family to move back to Israel.
According to the Detroit Free Press, “Eibschitz-Tsimhoni first filed for divorce after plans to relocate to Israel when her husband, a former Israeli Air Force pilot, accepted a job offer there in late 2008, federal court documents in Detroit show."
On June 24, the children refused to honor a court-ordered lunch meeting with their father, with the eldest son, Liam, stating that the father is “violent and... I saw him hit my mom and I’m not going to talk to him."
The father has denied this allegation in an interview with the New York Observer, in which he also accused his ex-wife of sabotaging his relationship with his children.
The court hearing then took a strange turn. Judge Lisa Gorcyca took the father's side by calling Liam a “defiant, contemptuous young man,” for failing to heed her order to have a relationship with his father, whom she called “a good man.”
"You’re supposed to have a high IQ, which I’m doubting right now," Gorcyca told the boy. "You have no manners.”
Court transcripts also show Gorcyca threatening the three children with juvenile detention.
“God gave you a brain. He expects you to use it. You are not your big, defiant brother who’s living in jail. Do you want to live in jail?” she told his 9-year-old sister.
“You want to have your birthdays in Children’s Village? Do you like going to the bathroom in front of people? Is your bed soft and comfortable at home? I’ll tell you this, if you two don’t have a nice lunch with your dad and make this up to your dad, you’re going to come back here (after lunch) and I’m going to have the deputies take you to Children’s Village," added the judge.
Gorcyca also claimed that the mother had brainwashed her children against the father by comparing her behavior to Charles Manson. Shortly afterward, the judge made good on her threat by sentencing all three children to be sent to the juvenile detention center, where she ordered them to be "kept away from each other as much as possible" and banned their mother from visiting.
Since the original ruling, some people have come out to clarify that it may not be as outlandish as it seems. Public relations executive Ronn Torossian, a friend of Tsimhoni's current wife, said that “this is not a case of, ‘These kids would not have a meal with their father so they were sent away. That’s ignoring five years in court. … There’s been a lot of inappropriate conduct by the mother throughout the years," the Huffington Post reported.
Nevertheless, public outrage over the case has been steadily growing in the national media, with one blogger writing that the judge went too far by punishing the children for their parents' mistakes.
“The court transcript reads like a five page tantrum being thrown by a family court judge," the blogger wrote, according to Haaretz.
“There are adults who commit felonies who aren’t sentenced to three or four years incarceration,” said Mark Honeyman, a friend of the Israeli family, Fox News reported.
Stating her reasoning for the decision ultimately to release the children on Friday, Gorcyca said "the court agrees with the children's guardian's recommendation as to the best interests of the children. The court finds that is in the children's best interests to grant the father's and the guardian ad litem's motion to allow the children to attend summer camp. Children's Village is to facilitate the transportation."
It remains unclear what will happen to the children at the end of the summer and whether the custody battle moves forward.