Two girls (illustrative)
Two girls (illustrative) Kobi Gideon/Flash90

Two girls from a Gerrer hasidic family recently disappeared, reappeared, and then disappeared again - and police say that contrary to rumors, they have not been kidnapped.

According to Kikar Hashabbat, the two girls, daughters of the Sandik family of Bnei Brak, were claimed to be missing after their parents decided to leave the hasidic sect and join a different community. The site also cited a different rumor, which said that there was an attempt to take out a protective order for the girls, due to "violence" perpetrated against them by their father, but that a judge had denied the request.

Footage published by Kan Moreshet showed the girls' mother in tears, begging her daughters to come home, as her husband sat by her side.

"Riki, Esti, we love you, anyone who hears us now, please help us," the mother said. "Find them, bring them to us. Riki I love you, Esti I love you, come back to us. Esti, come, Riki, we are waiting for you, your brothers, your sisters, Father and Mother, come, come, we will accept you, we want you."

A few hours after the footage was published, Mrs. Chana Milstein, the girls' married older sister, spoke up and told her sisters' version of things.

"Even honest and sincere people have fallen victim to the lies and accusations which people are spreading and which do injustice to the entire Gerrer hasidic sect, because of our family's story," Milstein said, according to Kikar Hashabbat. According to her, the family's home was not run properly, and the children suffer.

"My sisters were trapped at home, and my younger brother was trapped in his room," she said, adding that their parents did not allow them connections with friends. But she added that this behavior towards the children was "because of a group of people who got up to leave the Gerrer hasidic sect, and who managed to lay their hands on my parents."

"They turned to me, and I as their sister am obligated to help them in any way I can. I invited them to my home and I involved the welfare authorities. I turned to the police and told them that my sisters are at my home and I took responsibility for them."

"What kidnapping are you talking about here? Take your hands off my sisters, let them live in peace like everyone else their age. Stop using my parents as cannon fodder for your lies and manipulations."

The girls are 14 and 17 years old.

Attorney Ori Korav, who is representing the girls, said, "This is an internal family conflict between minor girls and their parents, and any attempt to connect this case to the Gerrer hasidic sect is completely unfounded and borders on spreading slander and gossip for the sole purpose of smearing and staining the hasidic group."

According to him, the girls requested to live with their older sister because of what they claimed they were going through, and "she appeared of her own initiative, twice, at the police station in Ashdod, together with the minors, and announced that the children were with her and signed that she is taking responsibility for them - and therefore any claim of kidnapping is completely unfounded."

"The minors filed a complaint with the police against their parents for abuse, and the issue is now being dealt with by police and welfare. So far, the parents have turned on their own to the court to request a temporary protection order against members of the family and of the Gur hasidic sect who have no connection to the case, but tomorrow a request will be filed with the court to cancel these orders, which were issued on the basis of false claims.

"It is unnecessary to say that the family and all the involved bodies will continue to cooperate and help the authorities to bring to justice anyone who harmed the minors."

"This is insane and unfounded," Kikar Hashabbat quoted one person who knows the family and who responded to Milstein's statement as saying. "From personal acquaintance with the family, it is a warm and amazing family. Anyone who has sharp ears immediately hears how she is reading from a paper. I personally know Mrs. Leah Sandik. She's an amazing woman. She's always smiling. She always greets everyone warmly. For many years she was the most beloved preschool teacher in the neighborhood. Until she retired. This is very sad and painful for me, and I am shocked to the depths of my being.".

The police said, "The complaints are being investigated, and testimonies have been taken both from the parents and from the minors who are the subject of the complaints, and the claim of kidnapping has been disproven. Welfare authorities have been involved to deal with the matter, and due to privacy concerns, we cannot expand on this further."