Seven teenaged girls arrested nearly two weeks ago for helping build a new civilian outpost in Samaria are still in prison - banned from speaking to their parents or on the phone. An eighth girl has been in jail for a month, and is being held alone. Their crime: Refusing to identify themselves or otherwise cooperate with Israel's judicial system that they say intends to unlawfully keep Jews out of the Land of Israel.
A large group of their friends protested loudly outside the Jerusalem Magistrates Court on Friday morning, and blocked the car of Court President Amnon Cohen. An eyewitness said Cohen became frazzled by the blockage and the whistling, and lost control of his car, crashing into an electricity pole. Damage was caused, but no one was hurt.
The "Hill of Light"
The girls were arrested at the site known as Givat Ha'Or (Hill of Light), featuring a group of abandoned Jordanian or British structures unused since before the Six Day War in 1967. Youths from nearby Beit El and other communities attempted to create a Jewish presence there, while other groups were starting similar initiatives at the same time in four other sites throughout Judea and Samaria.
Though the site had been declared a closed military zone before, police and army forces had not taken a tough stand against the youthful "settlers." Several times, the forces evicted them, but seemed to turn a blind eye to their returns, which generally happened within a few hours.
Nearly two weeks ago, however - Wednesday, Dec. 25 - things developed differently. Apparently armed with special orders to put an end once and for all to yet another Jewish presence near the site of Jacob's Biblical dream, the forces arrived at Givat Ha'Or with special gusto, and violently banished the youths from the site. In the process, they brutally arrested seven girls. The girls have refused, since then, to identify themselves or accept legal counsel - and the authorities, both in the prison service and the courts, have retaliated with relish.
Food Deprivation and Other Fronts
"An ideological war is being waged against 15-year-olds," said Ettie Medad, a mother of ten who herself spent 25 days in prison under similar circumstances in 2005, told Arutz-7. "For instance, the three times that they brought them for extension of their custody, the girls didn't receive food or the right to go to the bathroom the whole morning until the afternoon. In addition, the girls would like to study while they're there - but the Prison Service is not allowing any educational materials to be brought to them. The lawyer from the Honenu organization wrote a very sharp letter to the Prison Service, protesting this. Even Arab terrorists in jail are allowed to study; the Education Ministry must get involved and make sure they are able to study."
Ettie, who has attended two hearings at which the girls' custody was extended, says it is not clear whether the judges and prison personnel are working in tandem, "but the bottom line is that the girls are being mistreated and punished on both ends - for doing nothing other than not cooperating with the system. There have been different judges, and not one of them has taken the simple step of simply ordering them released. It is an unlawful system, and its goals are to throw more Jews out of the Land of Israel - and we refuse to give them the strength to do so."
Another girl, Tirtzah, who has been arrested several times under similar circumstances, has been in prison since Chanukah. Not only is she not permitted phone calls or parental visits, she is being kept separately from the others. "A lawyer from Honenu visits them every day," Ettie said, "just to give them some contact with the outside world. This is especially important for Tirtzah... But they are all strong; one day, I asked the lawyer who visited to speak separately with each girl and ask if they felt strong enough to continue. They all said yes; their strength is amazing. And the parents, too, are all supportive of their daughters - and some of them are actively in favor of their stance."
"They are not willing to be judged by this evil system," Ettie summed up. "They are willing to pay a relatively small price now, in order not to pay a larger price - of all of us being thrown out of our homes - later. This is a case of the few against the many; at present, we see that the authorities are feeling the pressure, and want to make sure that the phenomenon does not spread. At Friday's protest [where the judge crashed], the police - who generally make arrests in situations of this nature - were heard saying to each other not to make any arrests."
Letter to Comptroller
Civil rights and legal expert Attorney Iriving Gendelman has written to State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss in protest of a similar case of girls' incarceration. "The imprisonment of these juvenile girls," Gendelman wrote, "whose alleged acts relate to their concern for the welfare of their country is clearly unprecedented in a democratic society and would be violative of at least [the United Nations'] Human Rights Documents. This imprisonment is no less a governmental intimidation because these girls represent a political thought opposed to governmental policies. Their imprisonment is degrading, and it is an absence of dignity."
Asked how people can show their support, Ettie Medad said that they can try to find out when custody-extension hearings are being held - one was held for Tirtzah on Sunday, and another for the others Monday morning at the Russian Compound in Jerusalem - and show up to give support.