Israeli Prisons: What Awaits Sentenced Israeli Couples

Last week, hundreds of thousands of Orthodox Jewish rioters were protesting in the streets of Israel. Eighty of them, husbands and their wives, are on their way to incarceration in Israeli prisons.

The catalyst for all this is a recent Israeli Supreme Courts decision. That highly contested judgement laid out that the segregation in the Emanuel municipality girls school, where this whole episode started, is illegal. Ashkenazi parents had been strictly-enforcing a classroom policy of separationbetween their own daughters and other female students who were of Sefardi background. The parents attorneys contested it wasnt an issue of racism, rather one of standards, i.e. the level of religiosity in the Sefardi homes wasnt up to par with their own.

A vicious battle as old as the modern country itself ensued: Can the secular state claim, justifiably or, in this case, forcibly, any right to interfere with the internal workings of the religious community, or is that the sole domain of the Rabbis?

Now, a few dozen defiant couples will be experiencing a part of Israel, they never imagined existed: The Israeli Prison Service, I.P.S.

Following, is what they can expect, and what they need to know

The sentenced parties voluntarily appear at the infamous Abu Kabir, a Jerusalem police station, to begin their sentences.

From Abu Kabir, they will truck out early the next morning. During transport, the women will be hand- and foot-cuffed and driven to Neve Tirzah womens prison. Similarly, the men will be bound and transported to Nitzan prison. Both are inside the famous Ayalon Prison compound in Ramla. This is where the countrys most dangerous criminals, including thousands of radical Islamic terrorists from Hamas, Hizballah and United Jihad. Make no mistake about it: Ayalon prison compound is maximum security.

Passing through numerous security gate, just entering the compound will take upwards of a half an hour.

Arriving at the entrance of their receiving prison (Neve Tirzah for the women) they then will be marched into the building, again, one security gate after another, their cuffs will be removed, and they will be locked up in holding cells, each containing around thirty common criminals.

They will be greeted by a deafening over-abundance of disconcerting noises: exploding loudspeakers, slamming cell doors throughout the prison, guards yelling, Middle Eastern music filling the air. The smells will be a heavy aromatic cacophony of cigarette smoke, cooking (inmates in their cells), mid-summer Mediterranean perspiration (and other bodily excrements).

They need to keep their cool. Everybody is busy in prison. They should not answer the guards back. When the guards have a free moment, from a million chores, they will bring the inmates cold water, and share a few words with them, e.g. whats awaiting them, not to worry, etc.

All personal belongings these fresh inmates have with them will be inspected, every single article. Any other items forbidden in prison, like money, will be bagged, stored and returned upon their release. Their bodies will be frisked.

For three hours, each will be interviewed by: a social worker, security officer, and a medical staffer. Each will speak with the new arrivals individually, seated across a small desk in a quiet room, and record all identifying information, any special dietary or psychological needs.

During processing, the local prison chaplain, will be available. He always ensures observant guests receive their religious needs, something required by law. This being a high profile case, he will be double careful to make sure these individuals get everything they need.

Following processing, usually within twenty-four hours, they will all be transported to the prison where theyll sit out their term of sentencing. They will share cells with three to eight other inmates, most of whom will be repeat offenders, and not their first time in jail.

Now, few words to these men and women.

During incarceration, a number of people will be pivotal in your life. Here, Ill list the major players.

The Cell Block officer, usually a Major, will interview you, privately, in his or her office, which is also located within a Cell Block. He will then assign your cell to you.

The Cell Block security guards work in shifts of twenty-four hours on, forty-eight hours off. Your direct contact during your entire waking day will be with them. They are your liaison to your Cell Block officer. If you have a problem, tell it to him or her.

The other people who will be involved in your life, albeit more peripherally, are these.

The Inmate Officer is a step higher up in the hierarchy, and reports directly to the warden on each inmates well-being. A social worker, there are two to a Block of eighty inmates, will meet you at least once a week to see if there are any problems s/he can solve.

Finally, the other inmates. You will be eating, showering and living with them. Do not fear them, they are not out to harm you (though be careful). Generally, they only want to get through their sentence, and go on with life.

Some words of advice about the staff. In Israel, most of these men and women are educated, with at least a B.A. Their positions of power are not because of brawn, they were promoted because they know how to deal with people. They are professional and caring. Do not see them as opponents, they are there to try to help in whatever manner they can.

It was not these (I.P.S.) people who got you here.

Every staffer you meet will be there for two purposes: One, to enforce the law by keeping inmates, duly tried by courts of law, in a secure and legal manner. Two, to do so in as compassionate, humane and peaceful manner as possible.

These staffers want to go home at night knowing they have left a quiet and, as much as possible, peaceful, group of inmates. They want that quiet conscience of an honorable day at work, and peace of mind at night.

All they wish for you is the same: To return, when its all over, with honor and peace to your families. Amen.


  1. Tonda Desautelle July 19, 2011
  2. auto glass Tampa December 3, 2013

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