Kedushat Tzion Association Chairman and father of 14-year-old Yedidya who was arrested in Jerusalem's Old City last weekend, Rabbi Yehuda Epstein, responds on Arutz Sheva to the police brutality that was unleashed against his son who was held a full night without food and water without his parents' knowledge.
"I'm pretty shocked by the fact that a country that calls itself a democracy behaves like this to a 14-year-old," he said in a conversation with Arutz Sheva.
"A little boy - to turn him into an enemy of the police force; it's completely insane," he added. "To treat him the way totalitarian states treat opponents of the regime, to handle him as if he were some killer, is something that simply cannot be."
He said, "And it is clear that there is a trend here to break our spirit, of the Kedushat Tzion Association, of all the Jews who take the walk around the Temple Mount, by those who wish to abandon the area to the Arab rioters, and when these rioters throw rocks, we don't run away, but continue with greater determination, and when we need to, we can fight back, which is exactly what the police don't want."
He dismissed the claim that police notified him of his son's arrest. "That night the police said nothing to me," he said. "Apparently they called and one of the children at home answered and told them that Father went to bed so they left it at that and as far as they were concerned they'd discharged their duty. It was only in the morning when I got up that I saw that the child wasn't there. I was shocked."
On Thursday, police arrested three Jewish boys on suspicion of disturbing public order in the Muslim Quarter in Jerusalem after dozens of Arabs began to gather around them.
Testimony from one of the boys shows that the police used severe violence against Epstein and that he was deprived of basic rights such as providing him with food and water and giving notice of his arrest to his parents.
On Monday night, a video of the boy's interrogation was also leaked by police and Attorney Itamar Ben Gvir addressed it. "We understand that the police are under pressure, but it's a video that was edited by the police from the interrogation room in violation of the law, and questioning a minor is against the youth law."
"No one can explain why the minor wasn't imprisoned in a juvenile detention center, why he was forced to sleep on a bench, why he was cuffed - even if the police claim it was 'only' for five hours "- it is time for the Jerusalem Police to take responsibility for mistakes instead of using the best known defense which is to attack, certainly not against a minor," Ben Gvir added.
Epstein, a 14-year-old minor, was arrested while walking with his friends around the gates of the Temple Mount as he does every Thursday. "We were in the Muslim Quarter, about twenty guys," he said. "About fifty Arabs arrived and started making trouble."
"The Arabs came in numbers and started beating us," he added. At that time, about five Border Police officers who were at the scene approached the boys and demanded they go away. "We told them, why are you kicking us out and not them? We didn't agree to move and we lay down on the ground, so they told us it was an illegal gathering. We got up and they asked us to start walking, we walked slowly and they started to push us. They pushed hard."
He said, "Towards the Shechem Gate, there was trouble again. They started to kick us, they lifted me by my hands and legs. I told them that I live here and you can't take me from where I live. I told them I wanted to go in, we were already at Shechem Gate and then they caught me, a Border Policeman and Border Policewoman, and took me."
The two Border Police officers asked him to give them his personal phone. When he did not comply, they began pushing their hands into his pockets. "The Border Policewoman put her hand in my pocket to take the phone, and I told her she was harassing me."
"I explained to them that I'm shomer negiah (halakhic prohibition of physical contact between men and women who are not married to one another, ed.) and I suggested that I won't resist but I'll go with the Border Policeman at his own pace, with only him holding me. At one point, the Border Policeman started running with me and I fell. He dragged me," he said.
The boy and the police officers who caught him arrived at the Jerusalem Border Police building. "I came to Beit Eliyahu, where they made sure no one was filming and slammed the door shut. Another Border Policeman came and choked me, he grabbed me by the throat and a third Border Policeman threw his hand away from me. I told him I couldn't breathe and then he pulled me. They kicked me, started beating me."
Epstein further described the harsh violence directed against him. "He put me in the toilet, came in himself and locked the door. He put me against the wall and kicked me in the legs. I thought he was going to murder me, I'm not kidding," he said. "He kept beating me and at one point he pulled me out and flung me on the chair."
When Epstein asked for water, they replied that they had run out of water bottles. Around 22:00 he was transferred to the Jerusalem District headquarters building, the "Kishla" building.
Even there, 14-year-old Epstein testified, he received disgraceful treatment as he was forced to stay in the waiting room handcuffed all night, without food and water and without his parents being notified of his arrest. "A detention cell was occupied so they left me in the waiting room all night and didn't let me talk to my parents," he said. "They handcuffed my hands and my feet, until I arrived in court at 11:30 on Friday."
He says "the other detainee who was with me asked to go to the bathroom and the Border Police came in with him and watched him urinate."
"At night, they didn't bring me any food, and in the morning I couldn't eat what they brought me because I don't eat that kashrut. They told me it was kosher and I had to eat it," Epstein said.
Epstein finally signed a release under restrictive conditions, distanced from the place for 60 days. He intends to appeal the restraining order and to file a complaint with the Police Investigations Division against the police.
The Israel Police said: "The Israeli police strictly observe the rights and dignity of interrogees and detainees alongside the need to investigate the truth and to comply with the law, as was the case here."
"The suspect arrived in the Old City area with others who began to violate the public order in the place, fighting with local residents and police officers and subsequently the suspect was arrested for questioning for disorderly conduct in a public place, interfering with a policeman, and behavior that could violate public peace, and in the morning he was brought to court and released subject to conditions," police said.
It was also reported, "The Israeli police will act resolutely against anyone who interferes with police officers in their work and violates public order while harming others."