Women Convicted of "Neglect" in Yesha Protest

Three Hevron women say they will sit in prison rather than acknowledge the crime of which they have been convicted: "neglecting their children" in the course of a protest.

, | updated: 15:50

The women were protesting against security officers' treatment of a widow and her orphan children.

The story began 17 months ago when Nati Ozeri was murdered in front of his wife and five children by an Arab terrorist during their Sabbath meal. The family lived alone in a caravan on Hilltop 26, outside Kiryat Arba. When the weeklong "shiva" mourning period ended, the widow Livnat Ozeri and her children returned to live on the hilltop. Two months later, without prior warning, IDF forces surprised the family in the middle of the night and forcibly evicted them from the area, destroying all signs of Jewish presence there. Livnat said the next morning, "My children will now forever remember the traumatic murder of their father during Shabbat dinner, and the second attack on our home by our own government. They have both 'murdered us and inherited us.'"

Livnat's father Sha'ul Nir said, "To wake up five orphans in the middle of the night, and put them into police wagons as they're rubbing their eyes, with giant bulldozers around their home, only two months after they lost their father - and then to destroy their home with [much of] the contents inside - there are no words to describe this other than pre-meditated evil."

Livnat Ozeri later said that the soldiers broke down the door, did not speak or produce a warrant, and began searching: "[The police] told me that I had to enter the car immediately. I told them that I could not leave the children alone in the house. They forcibly pushed me into the police car. And then the soldiers went to bring the children from their beds.... 11 years old and younger - and there is no need to explain the trauma that a child experiences when his father has recently been murdered, and strangers take him out of his bed to a police car in the middle of the night.... [A]lmost midnight, in the freezing Hevron cold, with my five children - dressed in pajamas, without socks, without shoes, without a coat, and without a sweater. They forbade me to bring warm clothing or blankets for my children. We began to drive. I asked them where they were taking us. 'You will know later on, we have a long drive,' they replied...." They were dropped off in the middle of a Jerusalem street at 3 AM near her parents' home.

Later that day, many Hevron residents arrived at the site and were shocked at what they saw. "The State of Israel came, in the middle of a cold night, and took out from their home the widow and orphans of a murdered victim of terror," Elishva Federman told Arutz-7. "We simply could not stand by and do nothing in the face of this terrible crime. We came to the site, and were very shaken by the destruction on the hilltop. We - three other women from Hevron and I - found an old car that for some reason the army had not taken. People were standing around with the army trying to evict them, and we went into the car, with our babies, for protection from the freezing rain. When the police came and told us to leave, we told them that we were not leaving in protest of this terrible crime; we demanded that the widow and orphans be allowed to return and rebuild their home and their lives."

Finally, several hours later, the police forcefully removed them from the car, dragging them, with their babies, through the mud and into a police wagon. "Suddenly we found ourselves accused of a crime," Federman said, "as if we had done something wrong - when in truth, the real criminal was the State of Israel..."

The women were, in fact, charged with three crimes: refusal to adhere to a lawful order, interfering with a policeman in the line of duty, and negligence in caring for minors. One woman, who refused to even relate to the charges at all, was acquitted of all three, while the others were convicted of the latter two counts.

Federman said she appeared in court at the beginning of the trial only to protest her innocence and announce that she would not take part in further proceedings – and in fact she did not. "The judge therefore accepted all of the prosecution's claims, and we were found guilty. How ironic it is that we are convicted of negligence in caring for our children, who were able to come back to a nice warm house – but what about the Ozeri orphans? What did they come back to after being thrown out of their beds in the middle of the freezing night just two months after their father was murdered?!"

Asked what punishment she expects, Elisheva said, "I heard that the prosecution has asked that two of us carry out some months of public service. But I can tell you that we will refuse to do it. We refuse to acknowledge that we committed any crime – and we will sit in prison if we have to. We expect people to sit in prison rather than evacuate people from their homes in Gush Katif, and therefore we are willing to do the same. It's clear that the timing of this case is in order to deter those who wish to protest actively against the expulsion – and so we say that we are not afraid, and they will not scare us. I was taught that in times of war, we must be willing to give our lives for the Land of Israel, and so the least that we can give now is our freedom. If the price is to sit in prison, so be it."

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Jan. 2.

In the meanwhile, Elisheva's husband Noam continues to serve his house-arrest sentence. He was imprisoned under "administrative detention" – with no evidence presented – in September 2003. After being released this past June, he was immediately placed under house-arrest, permitted to leave his home only twice a day, for morning and afternoon/evening prayers. The sentence ends two weeks from now, but the Federmans are not optimistic that the orders will not be renewed.