Bentzi Gopstein
Bentzi GopsteinPhoto: Miriam Alster/Flash 90

Jerusalem police and the Prisons Service were ordered to compensate the director of the Lehava Organization, Bentzi Gopstein and two other activists from the organization with a sum of 30,000 NIS. This after a compromise between the sides made it clear that they were illegally searched after being arrested on the Temple Mount.

The incident occurred about three years ago when Gopstein and other activists entered the Temple Mount and at one point unfurled the Israeli flag and recited the Shema prayer. All Jewish prayers are forbidden on the Temple Mount, Judaism's holiest site.

They were arrested immediately by Jerusalem police but after an appeal was submitted by lawyers Itamar Ben Gvir and Naftali Wurzburger - they were released. After their arrest, it became known that when they entered the jail they were forced to undergo what they described as a 'humiliating' body search.

In the petition submitted by attorney Ben-Gvir, the three sued the Israeli police and the Prisons Service, claiming wrongful arrest and unlawful searches which were conducted randomly and which degraded their human dignity.

Ben Gvir claimed that "In an era when civil rights are lauded, there is no place for a search which leads to the humiliation of every detainee who enters the Russian compound. There should be a proper balance and such searches should only take place when they are imperative, such as when a drug dealer is arrested. It is not right to humiliate political prisoners who were arrested for praying or protesting."

The state prepared a defense statement but negotiations between the sides led to the compensation arrangement with Gopstein and the other activists.

This is the 11th time that a petition submitted by Ben Gvir against the police and the Prisons Service for unlawful searches has led to compensation for right-wing activists.

Lehava director Bentzi Gopstein said in response that "the Israeli police must internalize that the State of Israel is a democratic state and therefore freedom of speech and human dignity are basic rights. I am happy that I recited the Shema prayer on Temple Mount and that I also received financial compensation for the arrest and subsequent humiliation. The money will serve to strengthen our activities to save Jewish girls." The Lehava organization which Gopstein heads works to rescue Jewish girls who intend to marry Arab men.

Attorney Ben Gvir added that "In the last few months we discovered that the procedures of the Prisons Service had been updated as a result of these lawsuits, and now there are no random humiliating searches conducted on detainees. It is sad that there was such a blow to basic rights and to human dignity without any basis. I hope that the Israeli policemen and prison officers will follow the new guidelines, otherwise, we will be forced to present more and more lawsuits of this nature."