Herzog meets prisoners at Ayalon Prison
Herzog meets prisoners at Ayalon Prison Haim Zach/GPO

President Isaac Herzog and First Lady Michal Herzog visited the Ayalon Prison Monday. They were accompanied by Israel Prison Service Commander Chief Commissioner Katy Perry, Central District Deputy Commander Assistant Commissioner Eran Pierre, and Ayalon Prison Commander Commissioner Ronny Elbaz. The President was received with an honor guard of prison wardens, after which he spoke with the Israel Prison Service’s senior command and then toured the wings of the Ayalon Prison.

President Herzog began his remarks by saying: “It was important for me to visit and see, up close, an organization that is essential for a civilized and healthy society. An organization that confronts mighty challenges in prisons across the country and of course, also in the community. As the person who holds the power to pardon, for me, this visit, seeing the prison on the ground, and meeting the officers and prisoners personally, has an important and deeply meaningful dimension.”

Later, President and the First Lady visited an employment center in the prison, in which prisoners create a range of products for industry, protective vests, furniture for government ministries, Israeli flags, and so forth.

One of the prisoners, who was given a life sentence in 2008 and works in the Ayalon Prison as a quality control supervisor, shared his personal story with the President: “I used to use hard drugs and went through many difficult experiences with myself. I can say that slowly slowly, with time, I have done a very long rehabilitation process. In the end, I managed with a lot of help from the service, from social workers, from the staff. The whole system really helped and gave me a hand. I managed to get through a process successfully. Next month, I’ll have been clean for ten years. There’s no giving up. I keep doing my work. I’ve got to keep my days clean. It takes willpower, you can’t give up. True, we’re in prison, but you can live. You can reach amazing achievements, with love and joy. I have a home, a family, work, groups. I come down here to work and I feel the best I could be. To be part of things, to get up in the morning. It gives me a lot of strength.”

Later, they continued to Wing 7, which runs the “Dawn Program,” a special framework for prisoners in the early stages of life sentences, in which the participants sustain a community life while integrating into therapeutic and educational programs.

Finally, the President visited Radio Focus, a radio station operated by prisoners, where he held a conversation with the Prison Commissioner on the importance of rehabilitation, of returning to society, and of the institution of pardons.

Israel Prison Service Commander Chief Commissioner Katy Perry: “The Prison Service is an organization carrying out a first-order social and security mission, behind walls and often too far from the public eye. President Herzog and First Lady Michal Herzog’s visit is significant, signaling to the organization’s wardens and officers that we are an inseparable and essential part of the Israeli fabric and of the glue that makes us a united and strong community, in the face of the many social and security challenges that Israeli society confronts every day. I am happy for the opportunity to present to you not only the organization as it is today, but also the technological revolution that is already underway and will lead us to being an advanced and leading prison service.”