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Jailed Teens: Our Morale Won

Young teenagers, released Monday after more than a week behind bars without a trial, said they sang songs to keep their up their morale. A judge ordered them released with light restrictions.

First Publish: 5/24/2005, 1:19 PM / Last Update: 5/24/2005, 12:24 AM

"We knew all the time that our goal was important," said Rachel, a 14-year-old. "When they tried to break [our morale], we didn't break. The police were in shock. One time they said, 'This is the first time I have seen someone in jail laugh instead of crying.'"

Rachel and 26 other teens were released after having been arrested for blocking roads during a protest against the government's plan to expel Jews from their homes in Gaza and northern Samaria. A judge ordered them released with lighter restrictions that had originally been "offered" them.

The young prisoners' goal was to thwart police and court work, as well as day-to-day life, as an indication of what will happen to the country if disengagement is implemented.

Many of the youngsters were held overnight in rooms without beds. When they asked the police for identification, one policeman replied, "You don't identify yourselves, so we also will not identify ourselves."

The Honenu organization, which is helping opponents of the government policy challenge police brutality and restrictions on basic freedoms, said that dozens of minors were incarcerated against the law. The group questioned why child welfare workers and the media did not question the police actions.

"Some of the police and guards were nice and some were not," Rachel said. "Some of them threatened us that we would not be allowed visitors or conversations. Every time we sang, they threatened us."

She added that she and others wanted to go on a hunger strike, but abided by their parents' requests not to do so.

Despite the unpleasant experience, Rachel said she would have stayed in jail for two years, if necessary, for the sake of "the land of Israel, the Torah and the people of Israel."

Meanwhile, Hanoch Albert, a 26-year-old resident of Yitzhar who was arrested two weeks ago for taking part in a separate demonstration, was placed in solitary confinement yesterday. He was accused of being a "leader" of the young prisoners and encouraging them not to identify themselves. Spokesemen for the road-blocking struggle said that the youngsters do not lead a leader and "have shown that they are leaders themselves."

Albert was expected to be released from solitary confinement today.

A Be'er Sheva newspaper reported today that 700 cells in a local prison will soon be vacated to make way for the expected wave of arrests of anti-disengagement protestors.