Three buses accompanied by police motorcycles, cars and vans with full lights flashing rolled into the Ma’asiyahu prison in Ramle on Thursday night, as approximately 150 haredi men stood on the side, sang religious songs and danced in protest.
Many protesters said the internment of parents who refused a High Court order to end ethnic segregation at the Beit Ya’acov school in Emmanuel was part of a larger struggle over the place of religion in the state.
The demonstration was held in good spirits and remained free of violence, as both demonstrators and police officers expressed hope that the event would remain peaceful.
By Thursday evening, police had discovered that not all of the parents ordered into custody had complied with the High Court’s ruling. Only 35 parents had turned themselves in. In accordance with instructions given by the head of their community, 22 mothers failed to show up at the Russian Compound police center in Jerusalem. Four men were missing also.
“Police are assessing how to proceed, and a decision will be taken in the next 24 hours,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told the Post
. “We are acting on the basis that the decision of the High Court must be implemented.”
The Israel Prisons Service said the men would be housed at the Ma’asiyahu jail, while the women and their babies would be kept at the nearby Naveh Tirtza facility.
Yaron Zamir, spokesman of the IPS, said the parents would be kept in civilian custody, would not be mixed with other inmates, and would enjoy special privileges.
“They will have access to a pay phone whenever they wish. They will be visited daily. They will be served food that is kosher according to their standards. We will have 13 maternity wards with strollers and cribs,” Zamir said.
“When they arrive, they will receive detailed instructions on the facilities they will be held at,” he added.
Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen, who had asked the High Court to delay
the custody of the parents from Thursday noon to the early evening, in
order to allow the haredi community the chance to protest, praised the
peaceful conduct of the tens of thousands of demonstrators in Bnei Brak
“The haredi community has shown that it is possible to protest and
safeguard law and order. Prior preparations, the deployment of
thousands of officers, and dialogue pursued by police allowed for a
model protest,” Cohen said.
By press time, several dozen haredim remained outside the prison walls.
“We will stay late into the night,” one of them said.