Israel's Integrity Takes a Long, Cold Walk

The 254 innocent people who escaped prison into the freezing desert don't need a compass - Israel does.

Haaretz Editorial
Haaretz Editorial

Some 200 people marched dozens of kilometers on foot on Sunday. They marched for about six hours in the freezing cold, some of them in sandals, others without suitable winter clothing. They marched from the prison built for them in the Negev, euphemistically termed a “holding facility,” to the central bus station in Be’er Sheva. They declared a hunger strike and refused to accept food from local businessmen. One was even evacuated to Soroka Medical Center suffering from frostbite. On Monday, 150 of them began marching in the cold to Jerusalem.

The mayor of Be’er Sheva, in whose central bus station these people had gathered without anything, said, “We never agreed to let them move the problem from the center of the country to the south.” He even boasted of having managed to reduce the “problem” by making sure that “not all the buses from Holot will go to Be’er Sheva.”

In addition to those 200 people, 54 other residents of the new prison abandoned it over Shabbat. The Ramat Hanegev Regional Council received reports of dozens of people walking down the road in the direction of Be’er Sheva, most of them without winter clothes. In response, state representatives – members of the Immigration Police – were sent to patrol the council’s communities and see whether residents were employing these people in violation of the law. One resident told the policemen, “They have no idea where to go; they’re simply running down the road. We explained to them that it will soon be dark and cold and that there are dogs outside, and we offered to take them back to the facility.”

The state, which just a week ago passed a law that allows these people to be jailed without ever having been investigated, suspected, indicted or convicted in court, said in response, “We have beefed up enforcement in light of the opening of the facility; we are carrying out enforcement in keeping with the law, both as a matter of routine and with regard to infiltrators who left the facility and did not return.” Its spokesman even added, “We’ve informed the employers of this, and the infiltrators know the law and the regulations very well.” Another state representative explained that not only would these innocent detainees receive pocket money of 500 shekels a month (about $143), but some would be employed on jobs within the prison complex for a wage of 14 shekels an hour ($4), a higher sum than is paid ordinary prisoners.

Will the urgent petition filed to the High Court of Justice once again be a lifeline to rescue the state from the shame it is heaping on itself?

Leaving the Holot facility on a long walk to Jerusalem.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkowitz



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