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In its 66 year history, Israel has not known a single day free from terrorism and the threat of terrorism isn’t theoretical but prevalent and persistent. Out of necessity, we have established a longstanding practice of experts in the field of counterterrorism, extending also the way of assisting to victims of terror.
Israel is treating victims immediately after the terrorist act. Within the first 24 hours, the victims'' families are treated and accompanied by social workers from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services. After 24 hours, the National Insurance Institute of Israel (NII) contacts the victims and their families and, thereafter, provides counseling, training and guidance concerning any problem, whether emotional, social or family-related. The NII also guides the victims and their family members concerning how to exercise their rights and obtain the various services available to them. Additionally, the NII provides assistance with the arrangements of the funeral, preliminary financial assistance, and psychological treatment and support. In light of past experience, the NII, in cooperation with medical professionals, established a system to diagnose psychological injuries of victims as soon as possible, taking into account the close link between the speed of treatment of psychological injury and the level of damage that remains.
Victims of acts of terrorism are entitled to full reimbursement of expenses for hospitalization and treatment, nursing, medical rehabilitation, medications and medical aid instruments. In special cases, victims and their families are sent abroad for medical treatment. Additionally, victims are entitled by law to a long list of benefits and grants, such as, inter alia, assistance in housing, grants for therapeutic treatments, grants for acquiring medical equipment for paralyzed people, assistance for acquiring medically-adapted vehicles, an annual allowance for acquiring home equipment, and other grants or tax reductions.
The certified government agency to assist terror victims is the Department for Hostile Action Victims within the NII. All the department''s workers are certified social workers or employees that hold an academic degree in a relevant field. In addition, the NII periodically conducts mandatory internal training for the department''s employees. This training focuses on the unique issues that arise with victims of terrorism, such as trauma, coping with grief, anxiety, etc.
The Victims'' Rights Law and the Victims'' Rights Regulations 5765- 2005, detail the rights of a victim of a crime to receive information concerning his/her rights as a victim and also concerning the manner in which the criminal proceedings are being conducted. The law also imposes duties upon all officials involved in the legal process, to provide information to the victim concerning the manner in which the criminal proceedings are being conducted. The Victims'' Right Law includes a list of types of information that the victim is entitled to receive and specifies the identity of the person or body responsible for conveying that information. The law also grants the victim with the right to receive full information regarding assistance services provided by governmental agencies or by Non-Governmental Organizations.
Providing some of the above information is mandatory, while the remainder can be obtained following a request from the victim. The police provide every victim with an information pamphlet, as well as an access code to a computerized system, in which victims can find information and up-dated data on their case. In addition, the police are obligated to contact victims in certain junctures of the criminal process and inform them of the proceedings.
The Victims'' Rights Law and the Victims'' Rights Regulations 5765- 2005 grant victims of crime a wide range of rights within the criminal procedure and provides measures for implementing the rights of victims of crimes through all stages of the legal proceedings. While this legislation does not specifically deal with acts of terrorism, it does apply to victims of such acts. In general, since some of the rights are applicable only to certain crimes, the rights granted to victims under the Victims'' Rights Law are in accordance with the definition of the relevant crime.
These rights include:
• the right to express to the prosecutor his/her opinion, position and views concerning a plea bargain, prior to its finalization with the defense and the court''s approval of the plea-bargain, unless the District Attorney or the Head of the Prosecution Department of the Israel Police, as the case may be, determines that this would cause material harm to the conduct of the proceedings
• the right to receive adequate protection from the suspect, the accused, or his/her proxies during the criminal proceedings, as much as possible and depending on the circumstances
• the right to submit a written statement to the investigating body or the prosecutor concerning any injury or damage caused to him/her as a result of the crime, including bodily or mental harm, or damage to property (Victim Impact Statement), in which case, the prosecutor will present the above statement to the court during the sentencing hearing
• the right to express in writing his/her position and views concerning the anticipated danger stemming from a possible early release of the sentenced offender from prison, before the parole board makes a final decision on the matter
• the right to express in writing his/her opinion, position and/or views, through the Pardons Department of the Ministry of Justice (the "Department"), prior to the decision of the President of the State of Israel concerning an application for a pardon or mitigation of punishment.
i. Non-Governmental organization or community-based organizations
Most Non-Governmental Organizations that provide help for victims of terror enjoy governmental support. This support is mostly financial, in the form of financial aid and tax benefits. Some examples include:
NATAL - Israel''s Trauma Center for Victims of Terrorism and War
NATAL is a non-political nonprofit organization, founded in 1998 with the aim of increasing public awareness of national psycho-trauma caused by the Israeli-Arab conflict. NATAL provides emotional and psychological treatment and assistance to victims suffering from combat-related stress, to people injured in terrorist attacks, children who lost their parents, among others. NATAL also trains professionals who work with populations at risk and advance awareness and knowledge about the issue.
Victims of Acts of Terrorism Organization The Representative Organization in Israel
The Victims of Acts of Terrorism Organization is a non-political nonprofit organization which was recognized by the Israeli Government in 1998 as the representative organization of victims of acts of terrorism. Thousands of bereaved families, widows, orphans and people with disabilities are members of the organization. The Organization''s activities include, inter alia, providing free initial legal advice, conducting negotiations with Ministries in order to improve the treatment of victims of acts of terrorism, operating a website which contains information regarding the victims'' rights and benefits, organizing the National Memorial Day for victims of acts of terrorism, and arranging medical and holistic treatments with discount prices.
The NAVAH Organization
The NAVAH Organization offers emotional support to victims of terrorism and bereaved families through therapeutic and rehabilitative weekend retreats, support groups, a counseling help line, ongoing hospital and home visitations, and communal holiday events.
ii. Religious and/or cultural organizations
Religious organizations that help victims also receive governmental support. In this regard, it is worth noting The Identification, Extraction and Rescue - True Kindness organization (ZAKA).
The ZAKA Organization was originally formed to retrieve, identify, and ensure, that the bodies of victims of terror attacks were buried according to Jewish law. As gratitude to their hard work, in regards to the support they provide victims, one of the founders of ZAKA, Yehuda Meshi Zahav, was given the honor of lighting a beacon at Israel''s 55th Independence Day official ceremony.
iii. The media
As part of the solidarity with the victims of terrorism, the Israeli government has assisted and aided the media in publicizing the tragic stories of victims of terrorism and their families. Such aid includes, but is not limited to, the government releasing information and pictures, as well as hosting a website on the internet that contains the personal stories of victims.
iv. The private sector
The Israeli private sector plays a role in supporting victims of terror through donations to NGOs. Most NGOs that are supported by the government are also supported by the private sector.
v. International and/or regional organizations
Since January 2014 Israel has been in dialogue with the UNDOC Terrorism Prevention Branch regarding holding a joint conference/seminar on assisting victims of terror. Hopefully, this seminar will be held in 2015.
Out of necessity, Israel has become an expert in the field of counterterrorism and we are sharing our knowledge with governments throughout the world. Israeli experts have contributed their expertise on a range of issues – from terrorist financing to forensic investigation to aviation security to border protection – in international conventions and regional events. Further, the government itself supports and sponsors extensive and cutting-edge research on terrorism and counter-terrorism. These activities reflect our fundamental belief that terrorism can only be effectively confronted through international cooperation.