Artist Arrested, Strip-searched for Costume That 'Harassed Sara Netanyahu' Files Complaint

Zeev Engelmayer was wearing a body suit shaped like a woman's naked body which he often wears to portray a character at demonstrations, but police claimed costume constituted sexual harassment of public

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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Ze'ev Engelmayer dressed up as his fictional character Shoshke at a protest.
Ze'ev Engelmayer dressed up as his fictional character Shoshke at a protest.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

Artist Zeev Engelmayer filed a complaint on Monday against the police officers who arrested him at an anti-Netanyahu demonstration and strip-searched him Saturday night because he was wearing a body suit shaped like a naked body.

Engelmayer was arrested while attending a protest in Jerusalem against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. At the time, he was playing the role of Shoshke, a character he has portrayed for years and has used at many other demonstrations.

His complaint was submitted to the Justice Ministry department that investigates police misconduct.

Shoshke (aka Ze'ev Engelmayer) posing with Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem in 2017.Credit: Eviatar Amar

A police source told Haaretz on Sunday that the officers who arrested him thought Engelmayer was dressing up as Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, and that the provocative costume was a form of sexual harassment against her.

After his arrest, Engelmayer said he was taken to the Moriah police station and fingerprinted. He was then ordered to strip and bend over so he could be searched.

The police said they only asked him to remove his costume, and that Engelmayer had removed his underwear as well in order to provoke them. Engelmayer denied this.

“I’m simply shocked by this claim,” he said. “The policeman officially told me to remove my underpants. Why would I take them off voluntarily? This was the most humiliating thing that’s ever happened to me.”

He added that he would be happy to take a polygraph test and have the two policemen who were present do the same.

In a statement issued immediately after the arrest Saturday night, police said they arrested “a man who came to the protest site dressed as a naked woman in a manner that could constitute sexual harassment of the public.”

Engelmayer was also questioned on this charge, even though no such crime exists in the penal code.

On Monday, police slightly altered their story, saying he was detained due to “provocative conduct that harms and degrades women in a way that might disturb the peace. He was therefore asked to leave the site, and when he refused, he was taken to the station. Due to the explanation he gave for his actions, the demonstrator was released.”

Engelmayer’s attorney, Yair Nehorai, said on Saturday that his client’s arrest was “a serious, blatant infringement of freedom of expression. We have to hope this doesn’t symbolize a process of Israel becoming like Iran.”

“It was a ridiculous interrogation,” Engelmayer said on Saturday. “They asked me, ‘Why are you walking around naked?’ ‘Why are you walking naked down the street?’ and ‘What will happen if children see this?’ I explained in frustration that this is how art is, that it tests limits, that this is freedom of expression.”

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