ISRAELI REALITY: POLICE BRUTALITY
By Helen Freedman - Eyewitness
Senior Staff Writer
Original photo by Flash 90, Jerusalem
After spending the Sabbath in Kiryat Arba, Hebron, we arrived in Jerusalem. Six members of the group joined me in going to the Orient House in East Jerusalem, to demonstrate against the quasi-embassy that had been established there by the Palestinian Authority. We arrived by cab with our signs reading, PEACE NOT SUICIDE; RABBIS RIGHT RABIN WRONG; and NO PEACE THRU A-PIECE- MENT.
We had our driver drop us off in front of Orient House, rather than down the block where other demonstrators from the Moledet party could be seen. We took up our stations immediately. It was then that we got a first taste of what policy power was like in this new police state. Policemen came running over to us, insisting that we move away from the building. When we tried to persuade them that we were quite harmless, they became more insistent, called in reinforcements, and began "shouldering" us to move backwards. When I reprimanded one of the officers saying, I"m not your enemy. Your enemy is inside that building. Go after him, not me," the officer looked as though he might cry. But still, he and the others persisted in "doing their duty." I knew they were serious when a police car arrived and a call went out for female officers to deal with the women offenders. It was time to leave. Little did we know that we had had our first taste of dealing with the police.
Monday morning, July 17, 1995, we were at breakfast, looking forward to our trip to the Golan, when we received word that 16 children from Hebron, may of those with whom we had just spent the Shabbat, had been arrested and were being held at the Russian Compound Jail in Jerusalem.
Their names are:
- Eti Asoulin (18),
- Tirtsa Daniel (15)
- Tsipora Haiken (15)
- Elia Hou (18)
- Adi Kremer (18)
- Bat-Sion Leibovitz (17)
- Rivka Leibovitz (15)
- Eliner Levinger (11)
- Nurit Levinger (17)
- Rachel Levinger (16),
- David Novik (17)
- Naama Ofan (18)
- Noam Zeek (16)
- Nava Zeev (17)
- Ouria Zerbib (14)
There was unanimous agreement that we had to go to the jail to offer them moral support. Since Sunday, July 16, had been the first day of TaMaz, we knew that the youngsters would be in need of some extra food and drink, so we brought some refreshments with us. Filing quietly into the courthouse, going through metal detectors, meeting all the legal requirements of visitors to the courthouse, we were nevertheless kept in the narrow hallway alongside the courtroom. Because we were at least 50 people crowded together, there was a certain amount of noise, which was easily stopped at a number of occasions whenever someone had to pass through the crowd.
Somehow an argument broke out between one of the policemen and one member of our group, Shlomo Ben Zakeen Suddenly there was screaming and shouting. Policemen had pounced on the young man, punching and kicking him to the ground. Four or five of them proceeded to carry him off.
Turning my attention to the rear of the hallway, I saw that similar scenes were unfolding there. Police reinforcements had arrived and a free-for-all of policemen beating, kicking, pushing, and stomping on people was taking place. I jumped on a window sill to avoid being crushed by the wall of policemen that came at me. When I climbed down, I was again pushed forward, with total disregard for the man who lay sprawled helplessly on the floor, bleeding profusely. I recognized the man as Walter Zakes, a Christian member of our group from Houston, Texas. I cried out to the officer that I had every intention of moving, but could not trample upon this man who lay across the entire hallway. Stepping around him, I had the opportunity to see that he was indeed badly injured, with one eye deeply cut. Medics appeared, and he was taken to the hospital under oxygen.
As most of the group had exited by then, I followed, thinking that I had to get some information about Shlomo Ben Zakeen, the young man who had been the first to be taken away.
As I inquired about him, I learned that my own son, attorney Barry Freedman had also been arrested. Apparently no one saw what provoked the arrest. There were many witnessed though to the beating he suffered at the hands of the police. Pictures taken by group members show him trying to protect himself as he was surrounded by pummelling police. When I finally saw him in the jail house where he was being questioned, I was truly shocked. His shirt had been ripped to shreds and there were bruises on his chest. I saw Shlomo also, and he too was covered with bruises and welts. Both were kept in jail for the day. After much effort on the part of many people, including Terry Leech of the American Consulate, the boys were released the same evening.
That Monday afternoon, Tsipora Haiken and four other girls from Hebron that had been arrested, were released. I knew what attorney Elyakim HaEtzni had meant when he said,
"Deliverance will come when all the jails will be filled with Jewish patriots - not before!"
Surely the time was coming closer.
The police brutality that we encountered is only a small part of what is happening all over Israel today. The evacuation by the police of Dagan Hill at Efrat, and Beit El, and others that will follow, are a sure sign that the nation is crumbling. The hysteria of leaders that call for the arrest of women and children and Rabbis with Torah scrolls, is surely reminiscent of the darkest chapters in Jewish history.
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