Reality is stranger than fiction

1. Julia

Julia was two years old when her parents divorced. Both parents were immigrants from the former Soviet Union whose difficulties with integrating in Israel and a lack of personal compatibility had destroyed any chance for their marriage. When they divorced, the mother took Julia and moved to the south of the country, 3.5 hours away from her father, which in effect made him almost irrelevant in Julia’s upbringing.

The divorce has been unkind to the mother and she became addicted to alcohol, finding it difficult to function as a mother. Sweet Julia was neglected, found several times wandering the streets with her blond hair disheveled and her clothes dirty until Social Services told her mother that Julia would need to go to boarding school. The father was not consulted, he just received a notice about it.

Meanwhile, in the north of Israel, the father made an effort to rebuild his life, found a permanent job and started a new family. With Julia, who was eight years old by then, he kept in touch over the phone and by visiting her at boarding school once a month. During summer break she stopped answering his calls and he was convinced she was with her mother, who normally did not allow her to talk to him.

As time passed, the father called the boarding school counselor who told him that Julia’s grandmother had taken her to Russia and announced that she was not coming back. If I had not listened to the recording of the conversation with my own ears, I would not have believed that a teacher at a boarding school run by the department of Education and Social Services could indifferently inform a father about his daughter’s abduction to Russia. She may or may not informed the police and Social Services, but when the school year began and Julia was not in attendance, it was clear that Julia was believed to be the child of no one and that nobody would look for her.

At that stage, we filed a motion with the court, which issued a stay order against the mother and grandmother, preventing them from leaving the country, and declared Julia an abducted minor under the Hague Abduction Convention. However, the grandmother was already in Russia and Julia, who kept a relationship with her father by texting via WhatsApp, told him that she was staying with her 16-year-old cousin in a remote village near Moscow. The police officers who were sent to find the mother encountered a wall of indifference and lack of cooperation and did nothing about it.

Four months have passed during which the father was trying to bring Julia back to Israel, without any help from the authorities. It’s not like a case of an 8-year-old Israeli girl who was abducted to Russia justifies funding a lawyer in Russia to invoke the Hague Convention.

Last week, the grandmother tried to cancel the stay order we issued against her and so we found out that the grandmother had arrived in Israel to receive medical treatment and could not return to Julia. The father, who realized that no assistance would come from the authorities, decided to embark on a mission to bring Julia back to Israel. He ordered a plane ticket to Russia and went to the little village where she was staying. He knocked on the door of the small apartment for a whole day, knowning that someone was inside by the dog barks that came from within. Finally, the cousin came out of his hiding place under the bed, opened the door and Julia jumped into her father’s arms. It turned out that Julia was left alone for two months with her 16-year-old cousin in a small apartment, with the poor supervision of relatives of the grandmother who were relieved when someone came to fetch her.

One can tell a whole new story of the father’s journey back to Israel with the abducted Julia, but this week he landed with her in Israel and since then she has held onto him and refuses to let go. This week we filed a claim for custody and a motion for interim custody until the case is decided.

To be continued.


2. Jacob and Kochava

When Jacob married Kochava, he was a 38-year-old businessman who lived in Texas and had accumulated quite a bit of property. It was clear to both of them that a prenup was a condition to the marriage and Kochava, who used to tell him that she loved him not because of his money, happily signed it knowing that she would take care of herself after the wedding.

He had dozens of apartments and she felt she was entitled to them. She gave birth to three sons and for each birth she requested – and received – an apartment as a present. Jacob loved life and enjoyed them to the fullest, lavishly and enthusiastically. He wasn’t concerned with his health. He was relatively young and rich and so he did not imagine something could happen to him.

At the age of 49, his excess weight overwhelmed his heart. His secretary found him lying dead in his office on the morning of a sunny Texan day. He left behind him in Texas a wife and three sons and in Israel a brother and two parents.

Already at the funeral Kochava began to talk about the parents’ apartment. It turned out that Jacob had bought an apartment for his parents before he knew Kochava. She believed that the apartment belonged to his estate and asked his parents to transfer it to her. The bewildered and grieving parents, who loved Jacob so much and were so proud of him, found it difficult to deal with such conversations while mourning. They promised Kochava that their grandchildren, her children, would receive everything after they were gone.

But Kochava, who had made sure to issue a succession order in Texas according to which she was the only heiress, wanted the apartment for herself and did not hesitate. From Texas she filed in Israel a lawsuit against the bereaved elderly parents, motioning to recognize the apartment as part of Jacob’s estate and transfer it to her. Sounds terrible? Wait, there’s more.

Jacob’s father, an 83-year-old Holocaust survivor who never set foot in a law firm or in court, felt that it was too much for him. His elderly wife found him dead and with him a letter explaining that the prosecution caused him too much suffering.

We asked to delay the legal process or at least for the court to grant an extension to file a statement of defense. Kochava refused and insisted on running the procedure without delay. Nevertheless, the court gave us an extension to file.

This week we arrived with the 82-year-old bereaved widow to the hearing. Kochava came from Texas, heartless and full of fighting spirit. She refused any compromise. I do not remember when previously I had felt so righteous, legally and morally, or had to argue in a case where blood had been spilled, but an hour and a half later the lawsuit was dismissed.



He was the perfect husband and father, an exemplary family man who had worked hard all his life and had accumulated a lot of money and property. His three sons who worked with him in the factory received property and money from him and his wife was lavished with clothes, jewelry, trips abroad and gourmet restaurants.

The man was hedonistic, generous, and life loving. He had only one drawback, his weakness for women. His wife, who loved him after 50 years of marriage as much as on the first day, could not stand his weakness and kept watching his every move, searching his phone and making jealous scenes whenever she suspected that he was cheating.

At the age of 70 he decided to divorce. She was heartbroken but she loved him so much that she understood that he had to go, and with great nobility she sent him to negotiate a settlement with me. When we sat in my room, I tried to persuade him to stay, not to break up the beautiful family and not to break the heart of his loving wife. “I feel I do not have much time left,” he said to me with chilling frankness. “I want to live the remaining years freely. I love my wife and children and will always love them. I will leave everything to her”. And so, they signed a separation agreement that left her with most of the property and him with the factory. None of them considered a divorce and they already had in place mutual wills making sure to leave everything to each other and then to the children and grandchildren.

Exactly a year after the separation, he was sent for a stress test, had a heart attack and passed away in the ambulance that was called to the testing center and arrived 45 minutes later. Despite the separation that never diminished her love for him, she was beside herself. She was forced to cope with the management of the factory he left behind and take care of the many workers who he had given work to for decades.

Two months after his death she received an envelope with two suits. It was then that his belongings were looked at and his exploits were discovered. It turned out that the separation had set him free and he began to behave like a boy who was sent to spend time at the flagship store of Toys R Us. This is not the place to describe what took place exactly. His exploits with dozens of women were discovered in notebooks he left behind, in which he described in his dense and familiar handwriting his exciting experiences, as if he were afraid to forget something, as if he wanted someone to know one day …

One of the women, Stella, understood what this man needed, and in his notebooks, she was described as having enjoyed cooperating with him in every fantasy and he was captivated by her relatively young age and daring behavior. When their relations tightened, a month before he passed away, he entered into a financial agreement with her that stipulated absolute property separation.

Not the nature of their relations, nor the financial agreement they had signed nor the will he left behind, stopped Stella from filing the suits. She hired a young and militant lawyer whose amount of written arguments was inversely proportional to their legal strength and conducted a legal proceeding against the widow as if she herself had been married to him for 50 years.

This week, the first hearing took place and she could not handle the basic question – the cause of action. The judge explained to her that if she did not withdraw her claim, he would allow her to proceed, but the court expenses would be at least NIS 100,000. She withdrew.


This week there is no moral of the story as sometimes even when doing everything according to the book, we can encounter an unexpected crisis that teaches us that life is unpredictable and reality is stranger than fiction.