Allegations of police abuse and a call for a public fast day Thursday by leading rabbis herald the third week in jail for seven teenage girls arrested for building a hilltop outpost.
Police forced several of the girls, who are all under the age of 16, to strip in prison, according to their parents. Police also subjected the youngsters to sleep deprivation, a tactic used by the Shabak (General Security Service) when dealing with ‘ticking-bomb’ terrorists, to break their determination.
The girls have been held under harsh conditions and have not yet been charged. They refuse to identify themselves or cooperate with the Israeli justice system, which they say has positioned itself contrary to the laws of the Torah.
Judges have allowed the police to continue to incarcerate the seven girls, aged 13 to 15, at the Neveh Tirza prison near Ramle, east of Tel Aviv for entering a closed military zone and trying to establish the new hilltop community of Givat HaOr (Hill of Light) near Beit El, north of Jerusalem. The girls are demanding to be put on trial before a court of Jewish law set up by the nascent Sanhedrin.
Police declined to respond to the charges, saying that the girls’ parents "are welcome to file a complaint.” Such a complaint would necessitate disclosing the identities of the girls and cooperating with the legal system.
Fast Day Called For Thursday
Leading rabbis, including Kiryat Arba-Hevron Chief Rabbi Dov Lior, have called on people to fast on Thursday on behalf of the girls.
"In protest against the mistreatment and incarceration of these dear daughters of Zion and in protest against the terrible intention, G-d forbid, to endanger every single soul in Israel, to exile Jews from their homes and to expel them from their rightful inheritance – from Jerusalem and the Temple Mount – we call on all who are able to fast [Thursday]," said a statement from the Council of Rabbis of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria (Yesha).
Child Welfare Group Joins Protest
Israel's National Child Welfare Council protested the treatment of the girls. Director Dr. Yitzchak Kadmon sent a sharply-worded letter to the Jerusalem District Attorney's office, protesting the continued incarceration under abusive conditions of the seven. Kadmon mentioned the fact that the girls have been deprived of food and bathroom privileges for hours at a time, and are not allowed to have school books brought in.
The Honenu legal aid organization declared its appreciation of Dr. Kadmon's stance on the side of the girls: "The State of Israel seems to be convinced that Jews who work to settle throughout the Land of Israel are more likely to be criminals than others. We are happy that Dr. Kadman has woken up to his obligation to help even children of settlers."
Human Rights Brief Filed With Comptroller
Civil rights and human rights legal activist Attorney Irving Gendelman wrote a brief to State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss asking him to examine the continued imprisonment of the girls and its deleterious effect on Israeli democracy. "The hallmark of a democratic society is the ability of its citizenry to freely comment on the conduct of the Government,” Atty. Gendelman wrote. “This is particularly important when that comment is in opposition to government policies. Conversely, there is a forward movement to totalitarianism when the government reacts to abridge or subvert [views] in opposition to government policies...not only through its procedural processes but also where it seeks and secures cruel, harsh and undue punishment for those opposing governmental policies."
Gendelman said the girls’ imprisonment constitutes such punishment and pointed out that the girls' crime was that they “objected to government policies due to their noble concern for the welfare of their country… When you imprison someone, you take away their humanity and their dignity particularly where that imprisonment is questionable…Essentially, it is an abridgement of basic human rights in order to implement Government policies."