Daily Israel Report

‘Price Tag’ Hysteria? 13-Year-Old Detained for Carrying Paint

13-year-old girl in tears as police detain her for carrying paint for her Purim costume.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 3/5/2014, 2:42 AM

March around the Old City (archive)
March around the Old City (archive)
Israel news photo: Flash 90

A 13-year-old girl was separated from her friends and detained alone in a police station for the “crime” of carrying paint that she planned to use for her Purim costume, her parents have accused.

Ezri Tuvi, the girl’s father, spoke to Arutz Sheva about the incident, which took place Monday as his daughter Tzion and her friends visited Jerusalem.

The girls planned to take part in a monthly march around the gates of the Old City, a long-standing tradition in honor of Rosh Hodesh (the first day of the new Hebrew month – ed.). The girls first stopped to buy accessories for their costumes for the upcoming Purim holiday, Tuvi said, then made their way to the Kotel (Western Wall).

A security officer who checked the girls’ bags at the entrance found a small bottle of paint that Tzion Tuvi had just bought, and warned her that it is against the rules to bring paint into a holy site. The procedure was apparently instituted due to fears of “price tag” vandalism.

The girl offered to leave her paint behind, but the security officer on duty insisted on detaining her.

Ezri Tuvi then received a phone call telling him that his daughter was being held at a police station. He asked to speak to the commanding officer to see when she would be released, but says he was told, “The commander is busy.”

Tuvi repeatedly told the officers not to release his daughter alone, but rather, to wait for her friends or family to find her. However, he said, the officer he spoke to seemed unconcerned.

“I told them they should make sure she found her friends. The policeman told me she should go back to her house. I told him her house was a one-hour drive away. He said he didn’t know. It was just horrifyingly irresponsible,” Tuvi accused.

He later managed to reach the station where his daughter was being held by phone, and urged them to reconsider, explaining that she was just a girl with a can of paint.

Tzion was released after an hour. She was clearly upset when she arrived hours later at her family’s home in Samaria (Shomron), her father said.

“She said she cried a lot at the police station. They asked her questions, but what can you ask a 13-year-old girl about paint?” he said.

Despite Ezri Tuvi’s plea to officers not to release Tzion alone, his daughter revealed that they did exactly that. “They took me out of the station and told me I was free to go,” she said. “I told them I didn’t know where to go or where my friends were, but they didn’t care.”

Tuvi said he is planning to turn to police commanders to urge them to investigate, in order to prevent similar situations from arising in the future.

There have been several previous reports of Jewish teens being arrested on suspicion of involvement in “price tag” vandalism, only to go free hours or days later. “Price tag” graffiti is largely assumed to be the work of nationalist Jewish youth, although police data shows most vandals are not from Judea and Samaria, and some vandalism has been shown to have been the work of Arabs.

Jerusalem police responded to Ezri Tuvi’s claims in a statement. “At a security check at the entrance to the Western Wall, a knife was found in the possession of a male Jewish youth, and spray paint was found in the possession of a female Jewish youth. The two were going to take part in the march around the Mount. The items were confiscated, and the two were allowed to continue.”

When asked to clarify, a police spokesperson said there was no connection between Tzion Tuvi’s case and the youth carrying a knife except for the fact that both youths planned to take part in the same event.

When asked about Tzion’s report that she was detained for an hour and then released alone in an unfamiliar city, the spokesperson said they would look into the claim.