IPS not relenting on inhumane conditions of Ben Uliel’s imprisonment
I wonder if reading this will cause your heart to break as it broke mine to write it. I wonder if you will feel the rage build up inside you as I did.
Tonight is Erev Rosh Hashana. Jews around the world will be praying in whatever context they find most fits their spirituality and, pray or not, they will be eating holiday meals with friends and/or family. There are also those who, from choice, stay home. Of course, there are isolated Jews who are home alone, not from choice, but because for some reason they have nowhere to go for the holiday. I am sad for them, but this is not an article about these isolated Jews.
This article is about one Jew. A Jew who has begged the Israel Prison Services (IPS) to be allowed to join a minyan for Rosh Hashana.. A religious Jew. A believing Jew. A man who has been in isolation for seven years.
That man is Amiram Ben Uliel. Even if you believe he is guilty as convicted, you surely cannot agree with the conditions under which he is being held. If guilty, he deserves harsh punishment, for sure. But does that harsh punishment comprise a seven-year-long solitary confinement? If you do not know, here are the conditions of his imprisonment:
- As written, he is in solitary confinement — for seven years so far.
- He is not allowed to have any contact whatsoever with other prisoners.
- He is allowed out into a closed yard for two hours daily — all alone.
- He is not allowed telephone calls to either his family or his lawyer.
- His family can visit him for 30 minutes behind a glass partition once every two weeks.
- His lawyer can see him once a week.
- He is allowed only five holy books in his cell.
Even on the High Holidays, he will be praying in his cell alone. His lawyer, Honenu lawyer Adi Kedar, states:
On the eve of Rosh HaShana, after a year during which the weak and groveling conduct of the Prison Service regarding Arab security prisoners was revealed, the entire system continues to stand firmly opposite one lone prisoner, a Jew, who is only asking to pray in a minyan after being held in solitary for almost seven years. This is a badge of shame for the entire system. We will demand an immediate accounting.
At least Ben Uliel has a shofar. He asked that he be allowed to don his black garb in order to pray with dignity over the holiday. That request was denied. The excuse was that this is allowed in the Torani units of the prison only. This rejection follows a letter addressed by MK Yitzhak Pindrus (UTJ) to Prison Service Commissioner Lieutenant General Katy Perry, requesting that he be given all that is needed for honouring the High Holiday in which he writes:
There is no need to elaborate on the legal obligation to take action for the rights of the prisoner, and in the words of Supreme Court President Emeritus Aharon Barak, ‘The nature of an enlightened society is measured by the manner in which it treats its prisoners. A prisoner is deprived of his liberty. However, his human essence has not been taken from him. Prison walls separate a prisoner from freedom. Prison walls must not separate a prisoner from human dignity.
If you are not angry yet, perhaps you need to see how this compares with the prison conditions we allow for the security prisoners (i.e., terrorists) in Israeli jails — including those with blood on their hands: But first, is Ben Uliel a security prisoner or a criminal prisoner?
According to two of the restrictions — no phone calls, twice-monthly family visits behind a glass partition (for Ben Uliel the visit lasts for 30 minutes, for Arab terrorists it is 45 minutes) — he seems like a security prisoner. Criminals get phone calls and there are thrice-weekly visiting hours in open spaces. However, the other restrictions on him are are unlike those for either of these categories.
To see the lax and obsequious behaviour of the IPS toward the Arab security prisoners, just watch this video in which the interviewee says the worst part of his imprisonment is having to go from jail to court in a van with metal seats.
So when you hear the shofar being blown, imagine in your heart that its wafting sounds find those emanating from Ben Uliel’s shofar in Eshel Prison near Beer Sheva, altogether magnifying the demand for this man to be treated humanely.
Orian Ben Uliel, the wife who is raising their daughter alone, hopes that Am Yisrael (the People of Israel) will pray that justice will be done for her husband) and that the blowing of the shofar will resound with the prayer:
תְּקַע בְּשׁוֹפָר גָּדוֹל לְחֵרוּתֵנוּ
(Sound the great shofar for our freedom)
Whether you believe he was rightfully convicted or that this is a case of wrongful conviction, you must believe that he deserves to be treated humanely. Personally, I fear for his mental health as time goes by and he remains in solitary confinement. That cannot be right.
Feature Image Credit; Pixabay