Three of Etti Meidad's nine children - all three of whom are under age 6 - were taken with her to jail when she was arrested on Wednesday. She was arrested following an appeal by the State Prosecution against the dropping of charges against her in a more than two-year-old case (see below).
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Though the judge on duty originally ruled that the children could stay with their mother in detention, and that questions regarding their future would be discussed the next day, government officials abrogated this ruling and snatched them away from their mother that evening.
The Head Welfare Officer of the Jerusalem Region, Gila Greenbaum, ordered the removal of the two older children, David and Yehudah, from their mother and their placement with a foster family. (The youngest one, 8-month-old Miriam, is still nursing and was allowed to remain with her mother.) Wednesday evening, police officers arrived at the cell and forcibly removed David and Yehuda from their mother.
Ettie later said that the children were traumatized and cried hysterically. The two children were transferred to a foster family against court order - instead of sending them home to their father, who had to travel to the family in Gush Etzion to pick them up.
A spokesman for the Honenu legal organization issued the following response:
"The fact that the decision to remove the Meidad children and place them in a
foster family was made contrary to due proceedings of law, apparently stemming from direct intervention by a governmental organization, leads to the suspicion that this is a politically motivated abuse of governmental power in an attempt to apply severe psychological and physical pressure on Etti's husband Shmuel Meidad, head of Honenu Legal Defense Fund.
"We have learned that Greenbaum received her instructions directly from Deputy State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, Head of the Special Tasks Unit in the State Prosecution Office. This unit was assigned of late to deal exclusively with coordinating law enforcement efforts against the opponents of the Disengagement Plan.
in its four years of existence, has helped over 5,000 Jews who were persecuted by the law enforcement system in issues relating to the complex military and political situation in Israel. During the last four months alone, Honenu represented over 1,400Jews in legal proceedings initiated against them by the Special Tasks Unit in the State Prosecution Office due to their opposition to the Disengagement Plan.
"This is a wake-up call to what is ahead of us during the expulsion. As is known, the State has ordered Welfare Department social workers to take part in the expulsion efforts, and in certain cases to place children, such as those whose parents have been arrested, in foster care..."
There have also been cases of children ordered removed from their parents because the parents' anti-disengagement behavior, or their tolerance of similar behavior by their children, was deemed to render them neglectful and incompetent.
Honenu warns that this latest incident and others are "a clear indication of what are the true intentions of the State regarding the children of settlers."
Etti Meidad was arrested as the result of a protest incident following the brutal expulsion of widow Livnat Ozeri from her hilltop home outside Kiryat Arba in March 2003. Several women of Hevron were tried afterwards for "child neglect" for having brought their children with them to a spontaneous demonstration at the site of the destroyed home. On a rainy and cold day, they closed themselves up in a car and refused to come out for several hours, protesting the nighttime eviction of the young mother and her young children, just several weeks after their husband/father was murdered by Palestinian terrorists. Three of the women were convicted, but the fourth - Etti Meidad - was acquitted due to lack of evidence.
From the outset, Etti refused to attend the trial, believing it was a farce. After being forcefully brought to court for the first hearing, the trial judge granted her an exemption from attending the proceedings, and eventually acquitted her. The Prosecution appealed the decision, and a court date was set. Neither Meidad nor the main witness against her - a policewoman - attended, however, and the judge decided to close the file altogether. The prosecution refused to accept the verdict and demanded that the court reopen the case, and that the judge issue a writ of habeas corpus, forcing Mrs. Meidad to attend the hearing. The judge agreed to both demands.
On Wednesday, policemen arrived at the Meidad home in Hevron, demanding that she sign the writ in which she promises to either attend the trial or forfeit a sum of money. She refused to sign, and likewise refused to leave her young children alone and go with the police. Over 50 security forces were then called into action, including police, Border Guard police and soldiers, blocking off the Beit Hadassah neighborhood from east and west. After a two-hour standoff, they finally removed Etti Meidad from her home, taking her three youngest children with them to the Gush Etzion police station. At about 10 PM, two children were forcibly taken from her, and were taken, crying, to foster family in Alon Shvut, from where their father came to take them.
Thursday, at a court hearing in Jerusalem, the judge accepted the police request and ruled that Mrs. Meidad must remain in prison until the conclusion of proceedings against her, due to her refusal to attend court hearings. The
next hearing is due to take place at the end of September.
Etti Meidad asked the judge, "The previous judge exempted me from attended the court hearings. Why don't you do the same?" He responded, "That was him, and this is me."
The Meidads have decided not to appeal the court ruling, and Etti will remain in prison for now. Etti explained that she prefers to "sit in jail, despite the suffering my family and children will face, rather than cooperate with the evils perpetrated against our people. I will not cooperate with the forces who are expelling David Hatuel, a close friend of ours [whose wife and all four daughters were murdered by Palestinian terrorists in Gush Katif over a year ago], and with the forces who permitted the eviction of Livnat Ozeri and the destruction of her home. I will not
cooperate with the forces who are planning to build a casino in Elei Sinai [one of the Gush Katif communities slated to be destroyed in the coming weeks]. If this is the price we have to pay, so be it."