For nearly two decades, Ehud Olmert lived and worked in the upper echelons of Israeli public life – including three years as prime minister. On Monday, he joined a different VIP section of sorts, when he began serving his 19-month prison term in a special segregated section of Ma’asiyahu Prison.

The moment Olmert entered the prison, his security became the responsibility of the Prison Service, as opposed to the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), which had provided his security from the time he became prime minister in 2006.

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In his first days in Block 10 of Ma’asiyahu Prison, Olmert will be provided with a prison guard whose job is to protect the former PM from harming himself and assisting him in his transition to his new life as a prisoner.

Block 10 is a special unit of Ma’asiyahu meant to house convicts who require an extra level of security. The block was renovated over the past six years at a cost of NIS 4 million, and has a maximum capacity of 18 with six cells, each containing three beds, a shower, bathroom, closet, table, chairs and a television. There are currently only four people other than Olmert in the unit.

The block also has a mess hall, sports equipment, an outdoor area, a public phone, a room for meetings with lawyers and one for visits by loved ones, as well as a room that serves as a synagogue.

Ma’asiyahu is Israel’s largest prison for solely criminal, non-security prisoners. It houses some 1,190 inmates and has housed a number of former politicians, including Shas MK Shlomo Benizri and party head and Interior Minister Arye Deri, and most famously, ex-president Moshe Katsav.

Just like any other prisoner, upon his arrival he went through the standard intake procedure. This includes the process of identification by prison personnel, followed by a search of his person and belongings. The intake includes the opportunity to hand over valuables for safekeeping.

The new inmate is then taken to be photographed and provided with basic gear for prison – including clothes, bedding, and some toiletries, followed by a medical check and meeting with a social worker and the cellblock commander.

Though Olmert and his people didn’t publish a list, like all other new inmates he had the right to bring certain basic items, including 4 pairs of socks, 2 towels, 2 workout jumpsuits, 1 bedsheet and blanket, and a couple of pair of sport shorts, if he wants.

Like all other inmates, he is allowed to take with him prayer books and items for prayer, including a tallit, tefillin, or a prayer mat.

He will be allowed to wear civilian clothes while in the cellblock.



Olmert will be able to have up to NIS 1,500 shekels in his commissary, which he can use at a prison minimarket, which is open twice a month.

He will have the right to issue appeals to court and meet with his attorneys on weekends and will be permitted 30-minute personal visits as allowed by the commander of Ma’asiyahu.

Most inmates – depending on the level of danger they pose to society – can be eligible for furloughs after they have served a quarter of their time, provided the sentence is more than a year.

Perhaps the most difficult adjustment for Olmert will be the fact that his daily regimen will now be determined by the system, and not by him.



Whether or not he’s a morning person, he’ll have to get up for breakfast by 7 a.m., and then by 7:30 take part in morning chores on the cellblock. At 10:30 he’ll have the morning head count, and then he’ll eat lunch when it is served, at noon.

In the afternoon, there’s another head count, followed by chores, and an early dinner between 5 and 6 p.m., followed by activities, and then the nightly headcount and lights out.

According to the philosophy of the Israel Prison Service, detention is meant to be punishment for the convict, but not vengeance or humiliation.

The inmate is supposed to lose their freedom without losing their dignity.

Though he is serving a relatively short sentence and will most likely be safe from harm at the hands of other prisoners, the transition should be difficult for Olmert. No matter how humane the conditions, he is a human being losing his freedom, and nothing can compare to the sensation of hearing the heavy metal door of the prison cell close for the first time. 



Whether or not he’s a morning person he’ll have to get up for breakfast by 7am, and then by 7:30 take part in morning chores on the cellblock. At 10:30 he’ll have the morning head count, and then he’ll eat lunch when lunch is served, at noon.

In the afternoon there’s another head count, followed by chores, and an early dinner between 5 and 6pm, followed by activities, and then the nightly headcount and lights out.

According to the philosophy of the Israel Prison Service, detention is meant to be punishment for the convict, but not vengeance or humiliation. The inmate is supposed to lose their freedom without losing their dignity.

Though he is serving a relatively short sentence and will most likely be safe from harm at the hands of other prisoners, the transition should be difficult for Olmert. No matter how humane the conditions, he is a human being losing his freedom, and nothing can compare to the sensation of hearing the heavy metal door of the prison cell close for the first time.

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