Reporter's Notebook: Drama, comedy at Holyland trial

S.D.’s march to the witness chair took him within inches of Ehud Olmert, Uri Lupolianski and the rest of the defendants.

July 2, 2012 02:50
2 minute read.

Holyland 390. (photo credit: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)


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The atmosphere on the first day of the Holyland trial ranged from the dramatic to the bizarrely comical. Half of the time defense attorneys and defendants were calling out strenuous objections to the state’s case and the testimony of its key witness, S.D. But half the time, S.D., the defendants and the judge tried to lower the tension level with some comedy, or at least unscripted moments.

S.D. entered the court room using a cane and hobbled to the witness chair. Because the courtroom was small and due to its layout, S.D.’s march to the witness chair took him within inches of Ehud Olmert, Uri Lupolianski and the rest of the defendants.

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S.D. ranged from incredibly lucid with a tremendous grasp of the details and chronology of the Holyland Affair to looking confused and bewildered when he lost his train of thought or stated a fact that was plainly wrong.

He sounded exhausted and weak and had to be repeatedly asked to use a microphone, but when he had strength he displayed a deep and resonating baritone.

Although he sat through most of his testimony, the witness did stand several times to point out physical aspects of the Holyland project on large murals that the prosecution displayed. S.D.’s finger shook for most of the time that he pointed at the murals.

In one instance, S.D. said an event had occurred in 1994, but he could not remember when. The state prosecutor interjected “the end of 1994” to help him, and the defense attorneys jumped to their feet, objecting to the state’s assisting a witness with testifying.

Olmert entered the court last of all of the defendants, with an entourage, and generally smiled and greeted reporters and observers as if he were still the prime minister working the room. He also seemed particularly calm for a climactic day in the Holyland case, possibly because he has spent so much time in court on other corruption affairs in the past few years.


Shula Zaken, in an unscripted moment, kept trying to fix the courtroom door mezuza, which continued to fall sideways no matter how hard she tried.

Lupolianski tried to convince one of the court security guards to sit down next to him so they could talk. After being refused, he eventually fell asleep several times, apparently not all that concerned about his fate at this juncture.

The judge was unusually active, frequently taking over the state prosecutor’s role by asking S.D. questions.

The judge seemed to lose patience with many of the parties in the room. At one point when the state prosecutor tried to order defense attorneys to “just be quiet,” the judge rebuked her and reminded her that he was in charge.

When the defense attorneys exhausted the judge’s patience demanding to see originals of every document, he lifted up his original, signaling to them that they were welcome to come to his chambers after the hearing and photocopy the document themselves. But he said the defense attorneys could do this on their own time and dime, as the state could not be expected to arrange access for dozens of attorneys to originals of every document in the case.

The judge also said that if the defense did not trust the state’s photocopying abilities, he could have his staff recopy the same document and send the defense new photocopies.

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