Sunday, September 19

The surviving child of the Italian cable car tragedy, kidnapped by his grandfather

Correspondent in Rome



There is no peace for Eitan Biran, the only six-year-old boy who survived the accident that occurred last May, when a cabin of the Mottarone cable car, in the Piedmont region, fell into the void and 14 people died, including his parents, a little brother and two great-grandparents. Eitan he was kidnapped on Saturday by his maternal grandfather, the former Israeli military Smuel Peleg, convicted in the past of mistreating his ex-wife. Through a deception, claiming that he was going to buy toys at a shopping center in Pavia, in the Lombardy region, in northern Italy, he took little Eitan to Israel on a private plane. It was an operation mounted in detail, which is being investigated by the magistracy with the hypothesis of kidnapping.

The case has shocked Italy, creating a serious dispute between two families, in addition to a legal battle, against the background of a cultural conflict. Eitan, who was orphaned on May 23, losing his parents and brother, once again loses a family, the adoptive one, the one the judge had appointed to take care of the child: his paternal aunt, Aya Biran, a doctor, 41, who lives in Travaco Siccomario, next to Pavia, with her husband Or Nirko and two daughters who attend the same school as Eitan. The boy had to start classes today and is adapted to the Italian reality, since he arrived in this country when he was a month and a half, with his mother Tal Peleg, 27, and father Amit Biran, 30, who was studying medicine. His second son, Tom, 2 years old, was born here.

Private flight to Israel

The Israeli family was also demanding adoption. The judge allowed him to visit the boy biweekly. Maternal grandfather Shmuel Peleg found Eitan for a regular visit and took him away with a promise to return him at six in the afternoon. When verifying that he did not return, the aunt filed a complaint with the police. Shortly after, he received this message from his grandfather: “The boy has come home.” implying that he was in Israel. Shmuel Peleg did not go to the mall to buy toys, but put the boy in a car, crossed the border between Italy and Switzerland and with a private flight that took off from Lugano took him to Tel Aviv. “It was an operation with total disregard for Italian and community laws,” said lawyer Armando Simbari.

Eitan is an Italian citizen, as well as an Israeli. He has a double passport. Grandfather Peleg kept the one granted by Israel. The judge had ordered that he hand over that passport before August 30, but he did not.

The child has not yet fully recovered from the aftermath of the tragedy. He moves with a walker and you need the help of a physical therapist and a psychologist to overcome the trauma that shattered his life. His aunt, Dr. Aya Biran, who was by his side when the boy woke up in the Turin Hospital where he was admitted in serious condition, says desperately today that the kidnapping of her nephew “looks like a badly written Hollywood movie.” “My two daughters and Eitan have grown up together,” adds Aunt Aya Biran. He lived all his life in Italy, in Pavia, spending the holidays, like many children, in Israel with his maternal family. I told my daughters the truth about what happened. And I swore to you that we will try to bring Eitan back here.

For their part, the Peleg family had opened a hostile front at a press conference in August: “They are holding Eitan hostage. They are completely alienating you. We want you to live in Israel and frequent a Jewish school, rather than a Catholic school. We want to adopt him, ”says his maternal aunt, Gali Peleg, who lives in Tel Aviv.

The president of the Milan Jewish community, Milo Hasbani, has harshly criticized the kidnapping of the child: “We condemn and judge the kidnapping of Eitan as extremely serious; It seems almost absurd to us to have to say that a good Jew can grow up anywhere, and I hope that his case is not exploited for political ends.

Hard legal battle

Now, in addition to the family war, a legal battle that will last for months is beginning. Magistrate Ciro Cascone, from the Milan Juvenile Court, explains to La Stampa: «It is evident that we are facing an international abduction of a minor. The Hague Convention, to which Israel has acceded, speaks out in this regard. I hope that the judge in Israel will apply it rigorously, as we do in Italy. Not like sometimes, unfortunately, happens in other countries. According to the Hague Convention – adds the Italian magistrate – the Israeli judge should order that the child be repatriated to the country of residence. It will take months to come up with a solution. Much is in the hands of diplomacy.

Eitan was discharged from Turin hospital 18 days after being admitted to the ICU in a coma. When he woke up he didn’t remember anything and the first thing he did was ask about his mother. The child is still in a maze of unanswered questions. An adult would also feel vulnerable after a tragedy in which the world collapsed, so you can imagine the situation of a six-year-old. His fragility is reflected in the fact that, for example, “to fall asleep, he must be holding onto my hand,” says his aunt Aya Biran.

As if the horror that has passed was not enough, the little Eitan, without parents, is now, despite himself, separated from the adoptive family and the protagonist of a bitter battle that takes place between Pavia and Tel Aviv.

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