The charging of four sixth-grade girls in a plot to murder a classmate has engendered a debate on television viewing and violence in Israel. The girls told their interrogators that they were planning to cover their tracks using methods they learned from watching a popular children's television series called Galis.
The State Attorney's Office announced Sunday that it had charged the girls – from an elementary school in the Bikat Ono area of greater Tel Aviv – of conspiracy to commit a crime, theft and possession of a knife. A fifth girl involved is not yet 12 years old and therefore cannot be prosecuted.
The plot was uncovered by chance. The girl who was the intended victim of the ring told her principal that while she was sitting in one of the restroom stalls, she overheard the other girls discussing plans to seriously hurt her. The principal called the police, who found a knife in the possession of one of the girls, and another knife hidden away at another location.
The plotters were angry with the girl after she teased one of them. The investigation revealed that they planned to lead the victim to a nearby grove after school, where they were going to stab and kill her, once one of them uttered a code word. They intended to dig a hole and bury their victim, and then change their clothes and go out of town, to make it more difficult for investigators to tie them to the crime.
Prof. Yossi Harel-Fish, Head of The International Research Program on Adolescent Well-Being & Health at Bar Ilan University's School of Education, and chief scientist for the Authority for Battling Alcohol and Drugs, told newspaper Yisrael Hayom that Israeli children spend four hours or more per day, on average, watching television – and that this is the highest rate of television viewing in Europe.
Harel-Fish said that one of the factors that made the girls' plot possible may have been the absence of a meaningful adult figure in their lives, who could have helped then tell right from wrong.
Dr. Idit Solkin of the Media Department at Ben Gurion University told the newspaper that there is no regulatory element in Israel's television channels who is an expert on child development, and who can advise the channels on proper content for childr and youth.
The cable Children's Channel, which broadcasts Galis, said that the series does not encourage violence, and that “the only thing that one could have understood from the series is that fingerprints can incriminate a person – something one can learn from many other series.” Galis is generally considered to be a show that promotes positive social values like friendship and tolerance, and it has featured content that discourages alcohol consumption and bullying.