On February 21st, the Radcliffes, a family of Black-Hebrews living in Dimona received a dreaded 3AM knock on their door. IDF officers had come to tell them that their 19 year-old daughter, Toveet, who’d been serving in an intelligence unit of the Israeli Air Force at the Palmachim air base, had been shot and killed three hours earlier. The first version told to the family was that she’d died in her bedroom at the base. The army told them it would return later that morning with further news.
In that second visit, which happened at 1PM, four hours later than the army had promised, the overall commander of the air base, Brig. Gen. Nimrod Shifroni, arrived with the army contingent. I consulted with a former IDF officer who’s familiar with cases in which soldiers either died or committed suicide. She told me it’s entirely out of protocol for this to happen. Curiously, Toveet’s own commanding officer was not among them. He has never visited nor communicated in the four days since she died.
Toveet was in the final year of her IDF service, scheduled to be released this coming summer. Until a few weeks ago, she’d been serving in a different base. She was then transferred to Palmachim against her will. She was given leave before assuming her new position and returned home, where she told her mother she would not go. She refused for an entire week. Finally, her mother persuaded her to report to Palmachim. Within ten days, she would be dead.
From the photos in her Facebook account and an interview I had with a close family friend, she comes across as a typical young woman. Smiles abound. Flirtatious poses with girlfriends. Lots of colorful outfits and a fashion consciousness. The family friend told me that Toveet was a sweet, petite, attractive girl. Very kind and soft-spoken. She called her “a sweet little butterfly. She never raised her voice, had a soft presence and would do anything for anyone.” Toveet was also a vegan and, as you can see below, an artist.
On her Facebook page, a friend who also served in the army featured this painting created by Toveet and her best girl-friend, with the heartbreaking caption:
“Only a true-given Yah mind!” Can think and paint such a beautiful painting of herself. Being able to see herself through Yah’s eyes gifted from birth!. R.I.P Toveet Radcliffe You’ll always be in our hart’s and have our love.! “FAMO Sister!!!”
The afternoon following Toveet’s death, five senior officers arrived including, as I wrote above, the base commander. Instead of consoling the family as you would expect, they asked troubling private questions meant to elicit damaging information confirming that Toveet either was troubled or came from a troubled home. A member of the family ended that line of questioning.
The IDF contingent then offered the family a different account of the victim’s death than they heard during the 3AM visit. This time, they said she had been in the security shack on guard duty around midnight in a top-secret highly classified portion of the base. They told the family that she’d killed herself by shooting herself in the face twice with her own M16 rifle.
Anyone who has reviewed suicide statistics and profiles of victims knows that very few women kill themselves with firearms and even fewer do so by shooting themselves in the face. Not to mention, how and why does someone intending to kill themselves shoot themselves twice! Also, Toveet was around 5 feet 2 inches tall. Given the length of the barrel of her gun and relative shortness her own arms, it would be almost impossible for her to shoot herself in the head.
The former officer I interviewed said her own review of many such military cases revealed only one case in which a female soldier had committed suicide with a gun. She has never heard of a case in which a female soldier killed herself by shooting herself in the face. She also said she’s never heard of a suicide in which the gun was fired twice.
When the Radcliffe family asked whether any other soldier accompanied her on duty, they said no. Toveet herself had told her mother that women doing guard duty at night must be accompanied by a second soldier. They may not work alone. When the family asked if there was any surveillance footage of the area where she died, they were told there wasn’t. The IDF tells them Toveet was patrolling a top-secret portion of the base which did not have video surveillance? Is that credible?
בסיס פלמחים: חיילת כבת 19 ירתה לעצמה בראשה . http://t.co/berikgpguV
— סקופים רוטר.נט (@RotterNews) February 21, 2015
The army said that Toveet’s body was discovered at the end of her 10PM-12 midnight shift. Only 47 minutes later, someone posted a notice to Rotter about her death! How does that happen? Some IDF ghoul tells a gossip site a girl’s been murdered and her own family doesn’t find out until three hours later?! It’s obscene. This is the translation of the above tweet:
Palmachin AFB: 19 year-old soldier shot herself in the head.
Of course, it’s possible a soldier from the base leaked the story, but who would do something like this? Part of me believes this might’ve been the murderer himself though that’s speculation.
During their family visit, the IDF representatives told the family they were prepared to conduct a burial within a few hours. The family said they wanted her body cremated. The army told them that cremations aren’t performed in Israel. They did find someone who would cremate her but then the army decided that the charges for his services were too expensive.
At that point, the family decided they wanted their own independent autopsy. This raised concerns with the army. They wanted to know who the pathologist would be and wanted him to sign an agreement with the military before he would be permitted to do the job.
So far, three days after Toveet’s death, no one in the family has seen her body. No one has identified her. The army says they will not permit this until her birth father, who has never visited Israel before, comes and gives permission. Why does the IDF refuse the mother who raised her and has permanent custody of her the right to see her daughter’s body?
My strong suspicion is that Toveet was murdered. Given that a number of IDF commanders in the past few months have been cashiered for sexual abuse and the fact that sexual violence is common in the IDF, my hunch is that she was murdered by someone at the base. The IDF seems to be moving heaven and earth to cover-up the real cause of her death, which indicates to me that if she was killed it was by a superior officer. If a low-ranking soldier had done this, the IDF would not go to the extraordinary lengths it has.
As I talked to the close family friend I mentioned, it was clear that the Radcliffes don’t want vengeance. No one wants their pound of flesh. No one wants to get a high price lawyer and sue. This is a family living on the periphery. They have little material means and no friends on high places. What they do have is their dignity and a child who was a butterfly handed to the army for safekeeping. What did it do to her?
This family, part of the Black Hebrew community discriminated against for decades by an Israeli government that refused to recognized them either as Jews or as Israeli citizens, only wants the truth. They want the IDF to come clean and tell them what really happened. Is that too much to ask?
A pertinent consideration for this discussion is that for many Black-Hebrew families, the only path to legitimacy in Israeli society is through serving in the IDF. Though the older generation can’t do that, their children can. The State has agreed to offer citizenship to children who serve in the Army. It’s for this reason that Toveet’s military service, which was scheduled to end this summer, was so important to her and her family.
UPDATE: Carmela Menashe, Israeli TV military correspondent, just told me that this incident is under investigation by the military police. This is more than the family has been told until now. But at least it’s something. Given the history of the military police and prosecutor this doesn’t guarantee justice will be done. But at least there’s that possibility now.
UPDATE II: For Hebrew speakers, Channel 2 posted this to its Facebook account and then removed it. It appears that either the IDF military censor removed it or there is a gag order preventing publication. What’s interesting about this post is that it’s written from the perspective of a female IDF officer. I wish I knew who was the author. Maybe someone out there knows?
החיילת טובית רדקליף מקהילת העבריים בדימונה נהרגה אתמול בבסיס שלה.
צבא הגנה לישראל ידע לבוא להודיע למשפחתה על מה שקרה והוסיף כי אינו יכול לעשות לה הלוייה מפני שהיא לא אזרחית.רק מה שאני לא מבינה זה אם היא לא אזרחית איך היא גוייסה לצבא?ומעבר לזה…איך זה הגיוני לא לעשות הלוויה למישהי שבחרה לקחת חלק במסגרת הזאת בשביל לעזור להגן על המדינה ולתרום שנתיים מחייה –
הכבוד המינימאלי שמגיע לה ולכל אדם הוא קבורה ראויה!
מעבר לזה,הצבא גם מיהר לקבור אותה בלי לבדוק ולחקור כמו שצריך את נסיבות המוות שנותרו כסימן שאלה! זה נראה לכם הגיוני שתמות בחורה ואף אחד לא יידע ב100% מה קרה??
הצבא דואג לטאטא מתחת לשטיח מקרים קשים ואי אפשר לעבור על זה בשתיקה!
איך אני יכולה לקום בבוקר,ללכת לצבא בידיעה שאם חס וחלילה יקרה לי משהו מחר בבסיס יש סיכוי שהצבא בכלל לא יבדוק מה קרה? ימהר לקבור את הגופה ושהסיפור אפילו לא יגיע לעיתונות.
מעציב אותי בתור מפקדת,חיילת,ישראלית ובת אדם! משתתפת בצער המשפחה.
שתפו את המקרה הנורא כדי שאולי העוול יתוקן.
הכאב יישאר גדול אבל המעט שאפשר לעשות הוא להקל ולתת למשפחתה וחבריה את התשובות שמגיעות להם.”
Special h/t to David Sheen.
Everything you say in your article may be correct. I hope not. That said, you can commit suicide with an automatic rifle. It took me all of 10 seconds to find this.
Wow Victor you are talented. Can be used – really – and you found out it in 10 seconds?
One can make suicide using a fork or a F 15 fighter plane if one really wants to do that. But how many do and in what circumstances? I suppose the question WHY is at least as important than the question HOW in all suicide cases, even for the less admirable IDF and its supporters.
And a female is perfectly capable of committing suicide with an M 16 rifle.
I hope the military gets to the bottom of this soon, so this poor family can have closure.
Richard Silverstein says
The question isn’t whether some random woman could kill herself with an M16, but rather whether a short woman could do it & shoot herself twice in the face. As I mentioned, an IDF officer who dealt with hundreds of IDF fatalities & read files on many others, including many suicides, says she never encountered a female IDF soldier killing herself by shooting herself in the face.
You hope the military is going to “get to the bottom of this” because??? No, the IDF will never get to the bottom off this unless it is forced to, & people like you will surely not force them to.
This young soldier’s death is a tragedy, and if foul play was involved, the tragedy is compounded and justice must be served.
I don’t believe any Israeli wishes a coverup. Would you want to leave a murderer to remain amongst your children serving in the military? No.
While it is laudable that you are focusing media attention on this case, it is disreputable to say,
“And it isn’t”, when questioning the probability that a female can commit suicide with an automatic rifle. Clearly, forensic evidence suggests otherwise.
Richard Silverstein says
Who’s gonna “serve justice,” bubbie? You? The military police? A powerful AFB commander whose career must remain unblemished to rise up the ranks??
You don’t believe “any Israeli” wishes a cover up? The Radcliffe family certainly doesn’t wish a coverup. But they’re not “Israelis,” since the State denies them citizenship. But there are some extremely powerful generals and subordinates who do indeed wish a cover-up & they’re orchestrating it now as I write this. The question is whether they will succeed. And with apologists like you around they just might.
The question has nothing to do with me, but rather with how much homicide a base commander can stand. And whether he feels he must manage it by denying it or by coming clean and dealing with it (which he’s shown no indication of).
Your syntax is whacked. First, I never questioned that a woman “can” commit suicide with an M16. Of course, there may be a few who do so out of many hundreds of thousands who’ve done so over the years. I questioned the “likelihood” that this particular woman did. In fact, I denied outright it was possible in this particular case. As for questioning the “probability” that a female would (not “could”) commit suicide with an M16–you bet I do. It’s highly improbable in almost every case. Note, I said “almost.”
Brush up your Shakespeare and your syntax, buddy. Call it quits in this thread. No more comments for you here. Move on.
M P says
She is famous for uncovering IDF scandals. If she has her eye on this case, I can rest somewhat easier.
Richard Silverstein says
@ M P: She told me point blank it was “suicide.” She wouldn’t listen to any other explanation. I was not impressed.
@Richard “whether a short woman could do it” – you probably think of the old M16 (~99 cm) used in Vietnam which were also used as paddles for the local rivers. By now, most M16 used by the IDF are the short type with their barrel reduced from the original 20 inches. If my reserve unit in the army has it, so did she.
While that is said, thank you for bringing the story out. It is important. I just wish you wouldn’t compile to much of your personal views. For some readers, it stands in the way of looking at the important facts.
I used to work in a suicide crisis center and one of the things we knew was that females could but rarely used violent means to end their lives, preferring drug overdoses. I suspect strongly that she was murdered in order to cover up sexual abuse by another soldier, likely one who out ranked Toveet. So once again the world will learn how the idf investigates itself when criminal actions are to be hidden not exposed. There must be a legit autopsy on behalf of her family and full explanation for Toveet’s death (murder). There is a complete lack of trust in anything the idf has to say since it is typically self serving not the ‘most moral army’ it used to pretend to be.
“So once again the world will learn how the idf investigates itself when criminal actions are to be hidden not exposed. ”
IDF sex crimes and harassment exposed, without Miriam’s help.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Victor: This is perfect & typical hasbara behavior. When a commenter notes the overwhelming evidence that sexual violence is prevalent in the IDF, hasbaraniks manage to dig up the one or two cases in which someone was actually held accountable for misbehavior. That of course sweeps under the rug the thousands of other instances which are either not investigated, not charged, not tried, or not convicted. And there are thousands.
I remember reading a chillign story by an Israel soldier in which he recounted his own rape of a fellow female soldier. He wrote this in a spirit of teshuvah and asking forgiveness. But the entire exercise was quite chilling and disturbing. How many IDF rapists do you think even have such pangs of conscience?
There are mechanisms in place to allow IDF soldiers, male and female, to report sexual offenses without ‘going up the chain of command.
The problem isn’t being swept under the rug. The Knesset is examining the problem.
Obviously there is a serious problem with sexual offenses in the IDF as there is a serious problem in the United States military.
Former Israel resident says
A point of correction. Her father lived in Israel for many years, and she did not kill herself!!!
Still pretends to be.
Why the tag ‘racism’ when it isn’t at all clear yet what happened to her?
oreet butler says
Thank you for writing this about my friend we tried been trying everything just so people will listen and help get to the bottom of this
Why tag it “racism?” Hummmm young black girl dead shot in face… TWICE! OK, not once… But, by golly she shot herself twice in the face with a riffle! Lol some people will see the sun and deny it shines…
Richard Silverstein says
@ Tsuriel: Why use the tag “racism?” Umm, maybe, just maybe the Black Hebrews are subject to enormous amounts of Israeli racism and the post is about a murdered Black Hebrew girl. That may be why…
Richard Silverstein says
For those who disbelieve there’s such a thing as the hasbara patrol, compare Thomas’ comment to Tsuriel’s, both of which begin with almost identical words and quotation marks around the same word. Is that an accident? Are Thomas & Tsuriel the same person (they use different IP addresses & e mail addresses, though that doesn’t mean much)? I think the hasbara meister gave out the same talking points to 2 different hasbara trainees. With the result that Hasbara Central has egg on its face today…
I think Tsuriel was actually responding to Thomas…
Many years ago in Victoria, Australia, Jennifer Tanner was found dead with two bullets in her head and wounds in her hands. The rifle used was a bolt-action rifle, meaning that it had to be manually re-loaded before the second shot was fired. An inadequate police investigation led to an open finding by the coroner. Years later, after renewed publicity, a second inquest found that she had been murdered by her brother-in-law, who was a policeman at the time of her death. A lack of evidence has meant that he has never been charged.
There are also people who have doubts about the official story of the death of Australian Corporal Kovco in Iraq. He is supposed to have shot himself by accident on a military base. Military bases are not especially good places for open enquiries and transparency. In this case a proper autopsy must be undertaken immediately. I thank Richard S for this article, it is a significant story.
So she was shot in the face twice at the IDF/AF base where they test missiles, launch satellites, and fly drones….so this would be the equivalent of a female Airman being killed at NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain bunker in the US.
They will try to bury this as deep as they can shovel the dirt, and we need to stay on top of it, name the names, and hope that the perpetrators will wind up breaking rocks in Siberia.
Things to note:
1) M16 in this instance probably refers to a shortened version, about the size of a M4. As long M16 are rarely issued nowndays beyond basic training or ceremonies.
2) 2 rounds or even 3 rounds fired is seen in cases when someone fires the weapon in burst/full auto mode.
I hope the family is able to do a private autopsy and someone tells the full story.
Yeah, Right says
Very hard to believe that a guard’s station “in a top-secret highly classified portion of the base” is not itself under video surveillance.
Indeed, that stretches credibility way, way beyond breaking point.
Which rather begs a question: what evidence is there that she was actually on guard duty at the time of her death?
What? Because the IDF said so?
Hmmm, but then again, “The first version told to the family was that she’d died in her bedroom at the base.”
Dare I suggest that this first version is more likely to be the correct one, and the location was changed to a “highly classified portion of the base” so that it would be easier to stonewall any further questions with a “I’m not allowed to say more because…. you understand…. it’s classified….”
Arie Brand says
A “bedroom” for an ordinary soldier? There would be always witnesses around in the usual sleeping accommodation for soldiers. Perhaps it was some general’s bedroom. That could also be a “highly classified portion of the base”.
Arie, you may be right !
Thank you for this article!!! & Hopefully we get to the bottom of this…ASAP!
And I know the author that wrote that post on Facebook
Dr Brian Robinson says
Her Facebook page radiates warmth, goodness, fun — and a sheer love of the world, its people and all of life. We must have the truth about what happened, and her family must.
Justice must be served. We will get to the bottom of this and we won’t stop till we do. R.I.p. baby girl gone but never forgotten
On her MySpace page, Toveet Radcliffe has connected to IDF friends Zoha Coats and Shamai Scott. There seems to be a Radcliffe family connection to Lake City in Georgia. An exceptional link to top model Bar Rafaeli …
○ Bar Refaeli’s Israel Ad Reignites IDF Military Service Controversy
○ Black Hebrew Israelite Community of Dimona – all vegan
William Clark III says
The country she’s in don’t like Black People that much its like here in America .They like you taxes follows but hate you.Why don’t our President look into this. He nows how this country is.
“The country she’s in don’t like Black People..”
The country she’s in spent millions of dollars and sacrificed lives in order to bring Ethiopian Jews to Israel.
William. You’re as bigoted as you are ignorant.
BTW. The ‘Black Hebrews’ fled Chicago 30 years ago to come and make a new life in Israel.
Chicago is a city in the United States.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Victor: The country you’re in raised millions of dollars from Diaspora Jews who largely financed the Ethiopian airlift. THough I don’t know the financial/budgetary particulars, I’d bet the Diaspora financed much more of this project than Israel did. And it hasn’t done an especially good job of absorbing these Ethiopians as immigrants precisely because of the racism mentioned. You forget that spending millions is not a substitute for a prejudice-free society, which Israel clearly isn’t.
Further, Israel’s treatment of African refugees and the Black Hebrews cements the notion of Israel as a thoroughly racist society.
As early as 1977, at the behest of Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Israel was bartering for the lives of Ethiopian Jews. Operation Moses, backed by American-Jewish community funding, occurred in 1984.
Israeli’s of German/Polish ancestry call them “Schwarzes”. That is not a loving word. It is close to “Untermensch”.
Shoded Yam says
When I was in tiranut, oh some 25 years ago, I was trained at a base called Machaneh 80. At this base was a RASAR (Sgt. Major, I believe) named Banai. Anyone remember that guy? Short dude, big walrus mustache. Anyway when he wasn’t busy Rasaring, he was busy molesting women, which was sort of an open secret at the time. You know, a “chativah thing”. It wasn’t until 10 or 15 years out of the army that I heard they finally arrested this prick and sent him to jail. I should add that while I was in the service, I assumed this was an isolated incident. I was young and naive. It was only afterwards that I understood that raping your secretary was considered de riguer in the Israeli officer corp. Thus, while I’m merely speculating mind you, it will come as no suprise if they discover that this poor girl was assaulted and fought back and her assailant murdered her. She killed herself with three shots to the face? Bullshit. That dog don’t hunt. Lol.
Does anyone have a translation of that Facebook post in Hebrew?
If this story ever gets in the hands of the right people it is sure to draw a lot of attention to Israel’s image… a significant reality these days. RIP LITTLE SISTER, AND WE PRAY THAT THE MOST HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL WILL REVEAL THE TRUTH IN THIS MOST SERIOUS MATTER, AND THAT JUSTICE WILL BE BROUGHT TO WHO TOOK YOUR LIFE.