Yesterday morning I was getting ready to leave our Beit Hadassah apartment. It was just after eight. At 8:30 I usually spend about half an hour learning with my friend Rabbi Yisrael Shlissel in the Ohr Shlomo Kollel (Torah study hall) in Tel Rumeida. My cell phone rang. It was Rabbi Yisrael: “We won't be able to study together this morning. The police are all over the neighborhood. I thin k they're looking for my wife. They were wandering around on our porch. I don't want to leave the house.” I, of course, asked: “Why do they want Tzippy?” “I have no idea,” he responded.
I drove up to Tel Rumeida to see what was happening. On the way up the hill the police car was making its way down. However, two cops were still in the neighborhood . “Who are you looking for today,” I queried? Their answer: “Who are you? Where is your ID card? Show me your driver's license.” After carefully examining them, they ignored me. Someone else started yelling at them: “Who are you looking for today – our children. When was the last time you caught a terrorist, a murderer?”
After I while I left, and a few hours later drove up to Kiryat Arba. Who was just inside the town gate, waiting to greet me? You guessed. Another police car, signaling me to pull over to the side of the road. The cop gave my car and my passenger a good once-over, and then, not having discovered what, or who, he was searching for, smiled a cute smile and told me to have a good day. Thanks a lot.
I later heard that the police were swarming around the outside gate of the girl's religious high school building.
Early afternoon. My daughter's friend and classmate, Bitya Shlissel, fifteen years old, was walking from the high school to the lunch room, a few minutes away. Together with a couple of other girls they walked past a group of plain-clothed detectives. Suddenly a police car stopped behind them and one of the detectives yelled, “Batya, get over here fast!” Bitya's two friends, being experienced in such matters, quickly grabbed her arm and started pulling her, just as the detective caught her other arm and too began tugging. Bitya had enough. She told her friends, “why should they arrest you too?” and they let her go. The detective threw her into the back of the car and sped off with his criminal of the day. A fifteen year old tenth grader.
Not just any tenth grader. Bitya is the grand daughter of Rabbi Shlomo Ra'anan, who was murdered by terrorists in Tel Rumeida over eight years ago. Sixty three at the time of his death, Rabbi Ra'anan was the grandson of Israel's first Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Avraham Kook. Her parents, Rabbi Yisrael and Tzippy, moved to Hebron following the killing and the Rabbi became the dean of the new study hall, opened in his father-in-law's memory.
The Shlissels lived in the Mitzpe Shalhevet neighborhood, formerly the “Arab Shuk” or market. Until they were expelled, with eight other families almost a year ago. A short time later they moved into the newly purchased Beit Shapira, not far from their old home. There too, they were expelled by the police, with several other families. One can image that the kids haven't had an easy time of it. And yesterday, Bitya found herself being dragged away by the police.
At the Kiryat Arba police station, when asked her name, Bitya responded. However, when they police started with other questions, she ignored them.
As a rule, a person who is to be interrogated is presented with an official request to appear for questioning. No such order had ever been issued to Bitya or her parents. She had no idea why she had been swooped up by the police while on her way to lunch.
The police packed her into another car and drove the fifteen year old to Jerusalem for further questioning. Only then did Bitya understand why she'd been kidnapped by the police.
Last summer three Hebron girls, Bitya's friends, were being held in prison as the result of a demonstration in Hebron. One night Bitya and a few of her friends staged a demonstration by the home of Supreme Court Justice Ayala Prokatchia, who was instrumental in keeping the girls in jail. The girls hung some signs outside and chanted some slogans before being chased away by the police. As a result of this demonstration, an arrest warrant was issued against Bitya Shlissel on July 2, 2006 and charged her with: threatening and offending a public servant, trespass, and inciting violence or terror. It seems that yesterday the police suddenly remembered that the warrant had been issued a half a year ago and decided to act quickly, before the terrorist criminal could escape. So, Bitya was arrested. Of course, her parents weren't notified until after the fact, when she was already in Jerusalem.
Bitya told me that during the interrogation she kept her eyes on one of the plants in room and refused to say anything. When the police woman questioning her became bored with her answers, she told her she could go home after her parents came and signed a bond note guaranteeing her appearance in court. Bitya told her: “No way are my parents coming here to sign anything. “ The police woman then called Bitya's mother, Tzippy, who, as you might imagine, had nothing good to say to her. So the police finally agreed to allow Bitya to sign for herself, and then led her to the door.
“Wait,” she exclaimed, “how am I supposed to get home? I don't have any money or anything. You swiped me from the street on the way to lunch.” The police response: Our only responsibility is to notify your parents. It's your problem how you get back home. Period!
After a while one of the Shlissels' neighbors, who was in Jerusalem, picked Bitya up and drove her home for a belated lunch and dinner.
A day in the life of a girl from Hebron.