A woman wanted in Australia on child sex abuse charges has been arrested in Israel after she fled her home country.
Malka Leifer, the former principal of Adass Yisroel, an Orthodox girls’ school in Melbourne, is wanted to face 74 charges of abuse in Australia.
She was arrested following a police undercover operation.
Media reports said she had been living in the West Bank settlement of Immanuel and had avoided court proceedings seeking her extradition to Australia by claiming she was mentally unfit to appear in court.
“It is with a mixture of elation and relief coupled with anticipation towards the future, that we welcome the news of Malka Leifer’s arrest,” said Dassi Erlich, a former student at the school.
“We see this as a very important breakthrough in our long journey to achieve justice.”
Victims of the abuse scandal claimed Ms Leifer had feigned mental illness to avoid extradition.
“It has been a very long ten years since Malka Leifer fled Australia. We are hopeful that this is a turning point in the extradition process,” said Ms Erlich, who has spent many years campaigning for the extradition.
She met Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull before his visit to Israel last year with a request for him to discuss the case with Benjamin Netanyahu, and also visited Israel herself to meet members of the Knesset and media.
Manny Waks, chief executive of the anti-abuse group Kol v'Oz, who founded a child sexual abuse support group in Melbourne, said he was delighted to hear of the arrest.
He said he hoped “it is the re-commencement of a process that leads to her extradition to Australia to face her accusers.
“Her arrest is a credit to the many people who have worked tirelessly to ensure that she will be held to account and can no longer be a potential threat to children in Israel,” he added.
“I’m especially happy for her courageous alleged victims.”
Mr Waks was a founder if Melbourne-based Tzedek, a child sexual abuse advocacy group.