Mark and Ellen Newman continue pursuit of justice for son

Mark and Ellen Newman continue pursuit of justice for son
Mark and Ellen Newman pose with their son, Ariel, months before his departure to Israel. (Photo courtesy of the Newman family)

More than three years after their son’s death from heatstroke while hiking in the Judean Desert as part of a yeshiva gap-year program, Great Neck residents Mark and Ellen Newman said they are still fighting for justice and better safety standards in Israel, despite seemingly uncooperative prosecutors.

“I think they’ve wanted to close it down from day one,” Mark Newman said in an interview.

The Newmans have pressed for a negligent-homicide case against former officers of the program in the death of Ariel Newman, 18.

Police and prosecutors opened an investigation in May 2015, after Amos Fried, the Newman family’s lawyer, met with Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, the Jerusalem Post reported.

The district attorney for Israel’s Southern District then closed the case due to “insufficient evidence” in November last year, prompting the Newmans to appeal the decision to the Israeli state attorney’s office in December.

That office ordered police to reopen the investigation last July 17. This followed two articles in the Jerusalem Post reporting that police did not interview two key witnesses, who said that a tour guide pushed Newman to continue the hike even though he said “I feel like I’m going to die,” or challenge the guide before closing the case. The tour guide claimed that Newman expressed no concerns during the hike.

The Newmans said the police commander then expressed interest in redoing the investigation into their son’s death in August, but that the state attorney’s office allegedly ordered police to “cease and desist.”

“You can’t deny there is a dead body, you can’t deny they violated the law. Nobody is denying it,” Mark Newman said. “What they are trying to say is this is not important.”

Now, the Newmans said that Fried, their lawyer, will meet with Shlomo Lamberger, the deputy state attorney for criminal affairs in Israel, in December to try convincing the state attorney’s office to order a comprehensive investigation.

They also worked on assembling Ariel’s Checklist, a 10-point guideline on how hikers and others active in hot environments can protect themselves, with professionals and the Korey Stringer Institute, a research center aiming to prevent death in sports through health and safety initiatives.

Among some of the items highlighted were the importance of hydration, getting used to the heat, ample sleep and always having the first hike be at a beginner’s level. It also notes the importance of having someone prepared to handle a medical emergency and ending a hike if one no longer feels safe.

“We actually think what we’re doing will help tourism, because then the world will know Israel takes safety seriously and seriously in a way that foreigners will appreciate it,” Mark Newman said. “Everything we’re doing is out of love of Israel and the people.”

In Great Neck, tucked in Jonathan L. Ielpi Firefighters Park, is a redbud tree, planted in memory of Ariel Newman, the couple’s only son, whom they described as “a gentle giant” who “never spoke badly of others.”

Ellen Newman said Ariel was a person of strength, character and kindness. He was a lover of reading, she said, able to convert people making fun of him for it into people fascinated by what he was exploring.

“He was a very big boy, a young man, but he was very gentle. He was very ‘in the mind,'” Ellen Newman said. “He was a thoughtful person, very easy to be with, never demanding, and very laid back.”

Of the plaque, Mark Newman said, “That really was primarily for Ellen and me as a source of comfort that in life, there can be renewal, even after someone dies, in trying to carry on their legacy to remember what they lived for and stood for.

“It is also meant for people who didn’t know Ariel to let them know the fragility of life and that safety is of a paramount nature.”

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  1. Would it be possible to contact Mark and Ellen Neuman. I have read several articles about their son’s case.
    Many thanks

  2. I feel terrible for the Neuman’s no parent should ever have to mourn a child.

    And it this case it was a senseless death and possibly a preventable death.

    The unfortunate part comes with the anger that wells from the grieving.

    The Neuman’s would like their US sensibilities and justice and rules and regulations transferred to Israel.

    I am an American residing in Israel for 10 years.

    We witness all kinds of preventable accidents here every day. There are more injuries and death of construction workers then imaginable. Stupid accidents that could have been preventable, if only there were inspectors and regulations.

    Its a miracle that there are so few automobile accidents, there are motorcycles flying down the street in between busses and then jumping up onto the sidewalk and then across the crosswalk and then back onto the street again. There are mopens, bicycles and now eScooters running havoc. There is very little regulation and very little enforcement.

    No one has insurance and no one is really held accountable for anything.

    Teachers, administrators, directors of school systems kind of wing it.

    In Israel there are few rules and less enforceable rules. Cars park on the sidewalks.

    Restaurants have virtually no health standards. No one wears globes and hair masks, no one washes their hands.

    No one really cleans the tables or the dishes or the silverware
    But everyone survives.

    Americans forget and Israelis don’t realize it, but this is a third world nation. They want to think of it as little New York but it isn’t.

    The Neuman’s want to hold people accountable and there is nothing wrong with this, they are right, but when we do not hold parents who forget their kids in the car and they are not accountable after the child dies, what can you expect.

    Everytime I read about one of these horrors I get angry, I say people trusted you to protect their lives. People expected you to use common sense and knowledge and experience…People expected you to take responsibility.

    But this is not how Israel survives and functions.


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