President Rivlin visits Ofer Prison, speaks with IPS command

'"Prison warder" can be misleading. You're brave servicemen on front line along with security forces. You, not prison walls, keep us safe.'

Mordechai Sones,

Rivlin at prison visit
Rivlin at prison visit
Mark Neiman/GPO

President Reuven Rivlin today visited Ofer Prison and met with Israel Prison Service (IPS) warders and commanders, in light of recent security prisoner uprisings in various venues. Prison Service Acting Commander Commissioner Asher Vaknin and the senior command staff escorted the President on a tour of the facility and a demonstration of the IPS’s elite unit, at the end of which the President spoke with warders and command staff.

Ofer Prison is a jail for security detainees and prisoners, located close to Jerusalem and next to the Ofer Military Court. The staff of Ofer Prison are faced with sophisticated contraband smuggling attempts, such as mobile phones and written material with messages from terror organizations.

Recently, the IPS has begun installing devices to block mobile phone signals, as a result of which the prisoners are protesting, including setting fires and attacking warders, and have announced an open-ended hunger strike led by Hamas prisoners.

At the beginning of his visit, the President was briefed by Comissioner Vaknin about how the IPS is prepared for the hunger striking security prisoner situation. Following this, the President was shown a demonstration of the operational capability of the IPS’s Metzada unit, responsible for controlling outbreaks of violence and disorder in detention facilities. The President then met prison staff, who were joined by Superintendent Sagi Shiluan, a duty officer at Ketziot Prison who was stabbed in the neck by a security prisoner some two weeks ago. The President heard from warders about dilemmas and challenges they face working with terrorists, and wished Superintendent Sagi a speedy recovery and an easy birth to his wife, who is expecting a baby soon.

“I came here to tell you, men and women of the Israel Prison Service, that we're all with you and support your important work. I salute you. The term ‘prison warder’ can be misleading. You are brave servicemen and women on the front line, along with the security forces. You, not the prison walls, are what keep us safe,” said the President, adding, “The fight against terror doesn’t stop for a moment. Terrorists from Hamas and other terror organizations try to attack our people, even when they're behind bars. They plan attacks using mobile phones and try to attack prison warders. You, the brave men and women of the IPS, are what stands between them and their plans. You work in a demanding environment that requires you to be in daily contact with terrorists, murderers, and their accomplices. This is a complex task that demands a cool head and bravery.”

The President added, “I have to say that I came here to give you strength, but I'm leaving here strengthened myself. You've proved to me that you're able to deal with any development. You're part of a long campaign, because you're often with prisoners serving life sentences who have nothing to lose. Terror in prison is part of Hamas’ efforts to harm Israel, just as rockets and incendiary kites are. As always, the State of Israel won't allow terror to dictate the agenda, and will fight it relentlessly,”

Israel Prison Service Acting Commander Commissioner Asher Vaknin said: “The Israel Police Service is a determined organization and its warders are experienced in the uncompromising fight against crime and terror within prisons. The IPS controls the jails with determination and any attempt to attack staff or civilians will be dealt with immediately and firmly. The staff in these facilities are trained and skilled in working with this population, both in normal situations and when tension is high. Warders in security prisons are on the front line and are in daily contact with the prisoners. I'm proud of their professionalism, bravery, and determination, as well as their patience and steadfastness in facing the challenges that this tense period presents.”