Chaim Pearlman
Chaim Pearlman being released in Petah Tikva, August 12, 2010. Photo by Alon Ron
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After surviving 31 days in a small Shin Bet security service cell and endless interrogations without breaking down, it seems Chaim Pearlman cannot stop talking.

Pearlman, who is suspected of stabbing and killing at least three Palestinians over a decade ago, was released to house arrest at his parents' house in the West Bank settlement of Tekoa last week. On Tuesday, he gave a series of press interviews.

Like a film star promoting his movie, Pearlman came with list of prepared messages. Every half hour, he gave audience to another journalist, with radical right-wing activist Baruch Marzel sitting beside him to make sure he did not go off-message.

Pearlman told his story again and again, with unconcealed pleasure.

"Thirty-one days he didn't talk, now he can't stop," muttered Marzel.

It was apparent that Pearlman likes telling stories. Everything reminded him of something else and he skipped from one subject to another. He had difficulty avoiding even topics his lawyer forbade him to talk about and needed close supervision.

"You know, when I was in the cell, they put a man in hoping I'd talk to him about what I did," Pearlman said. "He told me the old Shin Bet joke about a race between Americans, Britons and Israelis, who were told to catch a hare in the forest. The Americans deployed satellite equipment and computers and finally located the hare. The British recruited rabbits as agents and they led them to the wanted hare. The Shin Bet caught a bear, tied it to a tree and screamed at it for hours: Confess you're a hare! Confess you're a hare!"

Pearlman refused to play the bear. "They'd talk to me and I'd sing ... I wouldn't talk to them or look at them. In the first two weeks, I didn't ask to go to the toilet. I did it in the garbage pail, so I wouldn't have to talk to them. After two weeks, when I asked to go, they were so excited, they called all the other interrogators.

"Once before meeting my lawyer, they filled the table with shawarma and cola. They said, 'now we're not interrogating you; come eat with us.' It was tempting. But I decided to put my hands behind my back. They only wanted to make me look at them.

"On one occasion a senior officer called Naftali came in. He knew a lot about the Torah and used lofty language. At the end of the conversation, he said, 'Chaim, my shift is over,' and held out his hand. I didn't shake it. He said, 'listen, you'll sit in jail and in 10 years you'll come begging me, like Shlomi Dvir, to let you see your children. If you don't shake my hand now it's personal, and I'll hold it against you.' I controlled myself."

Pearlman said he refused to deny he was the stabber, for fear that once he started talking, he would admit things he did not do. Referring to two other men arrested in the case, he said, "David Sitbon spoke with them and was held for 10 days. H.K. thought if he told them things he'd get out of it. He told the interrogators that I had suggested he stab Arabs. But cooperating with them didn't do him any good."

Pearlman denied he was the serial stabber and said meeting Shin Bet agents in hotels, where he gave them details about the murders that were not publicly known, was a mistake.

After he failed to get a teacher's certificate a few years ago, the Shin Bet contacted Pearlman and said they would get him a certificate if he came for one meeting, he said.

"I met them in hotels in Ashkelon and in Tel Aviv. They ordered a cheese platter. I ate lettuce. They kept saying they're not hearing anything serious from me. I spoke nonsense but I'm not the stabber. They know it and arrested me out of sheer vindictiveness."