Personal thoughts on current events, cultural events, Israel, Judaism, Jewish/Israel innovations and life from a Jewish perspective - read into that what you may.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Israel has unfortunately become a Police State
...the eyewitness account says it all.

Revava to the Temple Mount Eyewitness Report

The first thing I want to make clear is that the media and official police
reports of only a handful of protesters is an outright lie. Although it is
true that masses of people did not make it to the Temple Mount or even the
Western Wall Plaza, it was certainly not due to a lack of interest but a
virtual siege by the police of the entire Old City. It is hard to say
exactly how many people showed up, first of all because this was a
completely grassroots effort and there is no real way to differentiate
between a "Revava activist" and a regular Jew who is coming to pray at the
Kotel or visit the Old City. The police erred on the side of caution and
anyone who they remotely feared might be as they like to put it a "settler"
(even though a majority of Revava supporters do not live in the
"territories") was barred entry to the Old City or arrested on the spot. If
they did somehow manage to get through, or in my case were already in the
Old City, they scrutinized every person who entered the Kotel Plaza and
expelled or arrested anyone who they even thought might even consider being
involved. Finally, the turnout was naturally going to be lower than
expected because of the constant reports from the police and government
that the event was canceled and early reports of multiple arrests of Revava
activists and organizers (Yisrael Meir Cohen was arrested at roughly 6 AM
myself at 8). They even announced on the news in the morning that any
"right wing activists" who attempted to enter the Old City would be
immediately arrested (and they made good on that threat). I know for a fact
that there were several buses chartered from cities across Israel from as
far away as Haifa and Gush Katif and in the past several days we have had
non stop phone calls to our office and all of our personal cell phones. I
was away for Shabbat in Safed and even I personally spoke to at least 25
people on the bus Sat night who promised they would come and bring friends
and family.. While there were nowhere near our goal of 10,000 participants,
the police estimate of "several dozen" is blatantly dishonest and nothing
more than propaganda to delegitimize the organization and the entire
struggle for the Temple Mount. I personally saw many people in the Kotel
Plaza when I arrived at 8 AM and I was told by others that arrived later
that there was a solid presence throughout the day including Knesset
Members, veteran Land of Israel activists and many people who prayed and
danced in support of the Temple Mount. It is impossible to tell how many
people were turned away by the police at some point before they arrived but
"several dozen" does not do justice even for the number of people who
actually made it to the Kotel.

Yisrael Meir Cohen and I slept (or more accurately "rested briefly") last
night in the Old City because we feared (rightfully so) that the police
might attempt prevent us from entering in the morning. I received a call at
around 7:30AM that Yisrael was already arrested and I realized then that
it was going to be a long day. I finished the morning prayers and headed
down to the Western Wall, at 8AM sharp passing many people and police
officers on the way. None of them even alluded to the fact that I was
breaking the law merely by being there. I went through the security check
at the Western Wall, where 5 guards were standing and none of them
mentioned that anything was out of the ordinary so I figured that for the
time being the coast was clear. I didn't even make it all the way down the
stairs when the commander of the plainclothes division "pounced" on me and
told me "You realize that you are not allowed to be here?!" I figured that
he was referring to the Temple Mount which was closed to Jews, and guarded
by hundreds of riot police standing shoulder to shoulder at the gate. I
told him that he has nothing to worry about and that I had no intention of
storming the Temple Mount or causing any other disturbance. He informed me
that it was forbidden for me to be in the Kotel Plaza or even the Old City
at all and asked how I managed to "sneak in". When I told him that I simply
walked through the gate and I questioned him why he was not bothering the
thousands of other people who had come to pray he told me that I was under
arrest and that I had to "go with him to the car".

I made it clear that I had absolutely no intention of going anywhere, I
didn't have the chance to break any laws even if I wanted to and there is
no way he can arrest me for showing up at the Western Wall. He begged me
"not to make a scene" and that is precisely what I did. I ran away from him
and started shouting to the media circus which was there that I hadn't done
anything, and in the Israeli version of "democracy" Jews can be arrested
for merely coming to the Kotel. Religious freedom in Israel only applies to
Arabs! The Sharon government uses Bolshevik tactics on a regular basis in
an attempt to silence us, but he will not succeed. Finally, I shouted "The
Temple Mount belongs to the Jewish People" At this point I was surrounded
by several officers who attempted to push me towards the police car. I laid
on the ground and had a rather nice verbal exchange with the 8 or so
officers who attempted to carry me out. At one point they just got tired
and put me down to "take a break". I decided to have mercy on them and told
them I would walk by myself to the car if they left me alone. It was
obvious that they had laid a "trap" for me, the knew I would come and
therefore allowed me to do so in order that the have a pretense to arrest me.

They arrested me and brought me for "questioning" at the police station,
which was clear was not taken seriously even by the arresting officers who
allowed the arrestees to freely speak with each other and even talk on the
phone. They wanted to release me on my own recognizance on the condition
that I wouldn't return to the Old City for 24 hours. I told them that I
refuse to sign anything, I did nothing wrong, all of my belongings are in
the Old City, I fully intend to go back there and they can either release
me with no conditions or bring me before a judge for a remand hearing.
They were most displeased but legally they had to bring me before a judge
within 3 hours which is a huge waste of time and resources as we were only
talking about a 24 or even a 12 hour ban, or officially charge me with a
crime which was impossible because I hadn't committed one. If all the
arrestees demand to be brought before a judge it can seriously tie up the
courts for the entire day. In the end the Judge disregarded my 30 minute
argument complete with Supreme Court precedents why they had to release me
unconditionally and that my arrest was illegal to begin with. He
"sentenced" me to a 12 hour ban from entering the Old City and I was on my
way. While in the police station I sent out a bundle of text messages to
the "chevra" to see what was going on in the Old City. 90% of them were
also arrested or soon to be. The police arrested anyone who they recognized
as an "activist", or even anyone who had a gush katif or Revava t-shirt.
Everyone was released shortly with the same conditions.

In short "dozens" of people were arrested and many more expelled from the
Western Wall. There were even reports in the media of police savagely
beating an elderly man who merely asked them how they could throw good Jews
out of their homes?

One thing is for sure, I have never seen a police presence like the one I
witnessed today. There were literally thousands of officers, border police
and soldiers deployed all over Jerusalem many of whom where brought from
other cities. They certainly took Revava seriously regardless of their
mocking after the fact. In response President Moshe Katzav called for an
"solution" to be found in the near future which will allow Jewish Prayer on
the Temple Mount in a dignified manner.
Several members of Knesset showed up and citing their legal immunity
demanded to be allowed on the Temple Mount. When they were refused they had
very harsh words for the police and government. Especially Internal
Security Minister Gideon Ezra who was personally there to observe the
situation and received an earful of insults and criticism.

Regardless of how many people actually showed up, and how many actually
made it in, the campaign has been a success of magnitude proportions. For
nearly a month the subject of the Temple Mount permeated the media both
Israeli and worldwide and the issue has been firmly put on the agenda. The
fact that such a wide variety of people and "mainstream" members of Knesset
chose to participate is the best proof that Revava is not some "fringe
group" but speaks for a sizable portion of the Jewish People. We are not
"violent extremists" or "ultra-nationalists" as the media likes to dub us,
but plain old Jews who care about Eretz Yisrael and the desecration of
G-d's name which is permitted to go on. The Temple Mount is the heart of
the people and this campaign has showed that this is an important issue to
many Jews. This was no provocation or attempt to sabotage the disengagement
plan (although in essence it can serve as both), it was genuine concern for
the issue of freedom of religion in Israel and equal access to Jewish holy
sites. It is a disgrace that Jews are banished from our most holy site and
forbidden to pray there, and by a Jewish government no less. The majority
has now spoken that the Temple Mount belongs to the Jewish People and we
are willing to stand up for our rights to free access. If that is a
provocation, then so is the very fact that we are Jews...

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