The story began with a trip made by a group of young children from Ariel, accompanied by one adult, a few tens of meters outside the fence that surrounds the city and continued with a terrifying encounter with a group of dozens of Arabs who came towards them from the nearby village, equipped with stones, clubs and axes, and a physical encounter in the end of which A., who was accompanying the group of boys, stabbed to death one of the Arab attackers.
The story ended when A., who finished that day with the feeling that he had managed to save the children he was with just before they were about to be slaughtered, found himself detained for two weeks as a suspect in a terrorist-motivated murder, under harsh interrogation at a Shin Bet facility - six days of which he was prevented from meeting with a lawyer.
Even if we accept the assumption that every incident that ends with a person being killed requires an investigation by the police, then the decision by the Shin Bet to launch an aggressive investigation, under these circumstances, already raised big question marks in real time.
Nothing in the story of this incident showed that A. had premeditation to harm someone, certainly not a desire to commit a terrorist act, as attributed to him in the investigation.
Also because it quickly became clear to all parties that the encounter between the group from Ariel and the Arabs from the nearby village of Ischakha was initiated by the attackers who came from their village towards the Jewish boys, armed with weapons, and also because those who leave their homes with the desire to harm Arabs do not usually take 17 small children with them and does not go out into the field with them when he is not armed.
Be that as it may, just two months after this incident, the prosecutor's office informed Adi Keidar from the Honenu organization, A's lawyer, that the investigation against him would be closed without anything. As far as cases of this type are concerned, those that begin with heavy suspicions of murder, this is a very unusual record speed.
Even earlier, during a legal hearing and in response to Keidar's questions, the police representative confirmed that the Arabs were indeed equipped with clubs and axes, as A. claimed in his investigation, that they threw stones at the group of Jews and that there was concern for the safety of the boys. In addition, the police confirmed what was revealed earlier on the website "The Jewish Voice", that some of the Arabs who attacked the Jewish boys were Hamas operatives.
In several instances, during hearings held to extend his detention, while he was prevented from meeting with a lawyer, A. took the opportunity and told the judges about the difficult and humiliating experiences he went through at the Shin Bet facility. How he was dragged while naked. How he defecated in his pants and was left like that, dirty. How he was prevented from sleeping.
Now A. is telling the full story: the encounter with the group of Arabs, the fear for his life and the lives of the children for whom he was responsible, the injury to one of the Arabs with whom he came into physical contact, just before he stabbed him, the arrest, the Shin Bet investigations, the violence he suffered, the humiliating attitude directed towards him and the price his family is paying to this day.
A's whole story
This is the story of a 44-year-old man, father of three small children, who tried to defend himself and a group of children against Arab rioters - and ended up with the Shin Bet treating him like a murderous terrorist.
"It all started that day when I joined young boys from the Ariel settlement group. This is a group that in the future is interested in settling in a place that is today outside the fence of Ariel, adjacent to the city, very close to the university. The intention was to go on a tour with the children, talk to them about the love of the land, someone says some words of Torah, do some light weeding work so that the children feel they are doing something, and return home.
"I had a total of 17 children with me, most of them 12-14 years old, one was a little older. Some came with bicycles, one came with a scooter, it's right next to where they live. There is an orderly gate there, with police and security. I counted them, each one said his name, and we said 'we'll move some stones and sit.' Maybe five minutes passed, and one of the kids says to me 'here are some other boys who have come to help.'
"I raise my head, it's an uneven area, and at a distance of several tens of meters from us I see that it's not our boys, but a group of Arabs, maybe 40 people, coming towards us from the trees. I see sticks and irons in their hands, and I start to hear their shouts 'Ruch Min Hun' ('Get out of here') and 'What are you doing here', and they start to get excited. At that moment my heart sank, because I already see what is going to happen here. I understand that I am in a minority position, that I am not armed and that I have children here that I have to look after.
"The children are getting stressed. Some of them were crying. And I see two guys with axes advancing towards us, and the first thing that comes to my mind is the image from the attack in Elad. The first thought is to run quickly back to the settlement, which is adjacent to its fence, the problem was that the Arabs came from the side we came from , meaning from the side of Ariel's gate, and to return I have to go through them. They are blocking our exit. And I am with 17 children. They are shouting, screaming and with tools in their hands.
"I told them, 'We're leaving, we only came here to do gardening,' but they won't let us. You see their rage, and that's where the horror movie begins. There was an older man there who I thought would calm the guys down. A guy with a galabieh (a cloak), about 50-60, who seemed like someone you could talk to, but very quickly things started to get heated and I realized that they didn't care about him, and the ones who are deciding now are the hot-headed young people and they are advancing towards me and we are going backwards.
"At this point their group split up. Most of them stayed somewhere behind. The four who were closest to us continued with us, two with small hatchets, one with a knife and one with an iron skewer and behind them another four who also had things in their hands. We try to stay away from the Arabs, retreating the whole time back towards the fields, and actually walking away from Ariel's gate, which I no longer see. I guess in this whole event we went maybe 250 meters backward.
"I look back quickly and see a dump belonging to the Arabs that we're heading in the direction of, and I realize that it's only getting worse and worse. They're separating me from going home and pushing me deep into the field. And I'm constantly trying to calm them down. 'Enough. Here, we're leaving.' I constantly ask for forgiveness with hand gestures, I don't want to show them any hostility. And I'm afraid. Terrified. Also afraid for myself, I have three children at home, and also afraid for the children with me."
"Every now and then there were short pauses, in which they stop moving forward and the adult behind tries to calm them down, and then they get heated again and then stones fly in our direction. Even earlier, I asked a big boy who was next to me with a phone to quickly call the police. I realized that instead he called his father, and it wasn't clear to me where his father is and if he can help at all. I took advantage of the moment I could, and instead of calling 100 to the police and then an operator would answer me, and it would take me a while to explain to her where I was, and she wouldn't understand, I quickly sent a message in the men's WhatsApp group in my settlement."
The WhatsApp group, it must be said, illustrates the hysteria and panic that was in the field at these moments. Anyone who goes by what is written in it will have a hard time understanding how the Shin Bet later arrested A. and attributed to him a racially motivated act of terrorism, as if he had gone looking for Arabs to kill them.
A., according to the correspondence, urgently asked for the security coordinator's phone number. "No Answer, Sssamek (a curse)," he wrote after a moment. "What happened," one of the friends asks him. "It's urgent," he replies, "50 Arabs on us... At the entrance to Ariel, I am with 14-year-old children, 18 children with me, 50 Arabs on us." One of the members informs that he is "sending the emergency unit." A. replies: "Children are crying here, send them quickly."
"Following my appeal," he continues, "I receive a flood of phone calls from my friends. 'Where are you, we're coming.' It gave me a little better feeling, I hoped that in a short time they would contact me, but the situation slowly escalated, and I realize that I am already deep in the field, and who knows how long it will take someone to reach me. Meanwhile, the Arabs are constantly advancing and I am retreating. I lost track of time a bit, but I estimate it all took something like 20 minutes.
"There are essentially three groups in front of me. Four people armed with tools who are with me at the front all the time, and don't leave me and occasionally throw stones. A few meters behind them there are four more. And there's the group of something like 40 that disappeared, and I figured they might meet my guys when they arrived. I realized that I cannot estimate when they will join us and when they will rescue us. The children are all behind me, and I walk with my back back and my face forward, so as not to lose eye contact, because I was afraid that at any moment they would start rushing towards us.
"At this point, something happened that overturned the whole business. The children who were following me changed their direction a bit, because the area is winding, not straight, and instead of going back, they broke a bit diagonally towards the settlement's fence, and then a situation arose where they got stuck in the fence and could no longer go back. In front are the Arabs, behind us is the fence, and we have nowhere to run anymore. And I'm constantly thinking that in one moment they can slaughter us all. Meanwhile, trying to delay them, I made movements as if I had a gun in my belt, and was about to draw it. At first it worked, and they really went backwards. Then they saw that I had nothing and again advanced towards us.
"Whoever was not there will not understand what happened to us. They had murder in their eyes. And I understand that I have no more tricks and that we are at a dead end. The children after me stopped at the fence and clung to it, perhaps because they saw Ariel's security coordinator coming in our direction from the other side of the fence . He saw me, and I didn't see him. He was a few tens of meters from us. Then he also shot in the air trying to help us.
"We had nowhere else to run, and at this point, when the first four are maybe ten meters away from us, this is the first time I understand that there is no choice and I stop going back and decide to go forward. Toward them. It's a momentary decision. Because my thinking says there is nowhere to run, and it's better if they deal with me. I wanted to draw all the fire to me. You see, I knew I wasn't getting out of there. When you see the axes and the knife and their passion, you know it can't end well.
"I knew the whole time that I had a sharp tool in my pocket, something that I take with me when I go out into the field. Not exactly a penknife, but a kind of sharp tool that I use to cut wires and things like that. And I don't take it out or touch it during the entire incident, because obviously To me it will only heat up the spirits. Then a situation arises where I get close to them, and I realize that I am going to fight four and the odds here are against me, especially when they are equipped with what they are equipped with.
"I shouted, 'Children, protect yourselves'. I knew that if they slaughtered me, I would no longer be able to protect them. Then the children got resourceful, and without me telling them, when the Arabs came to me, they started throwing stones at the Arabs. At that point, it really saved me. It was only because of this that the four separated. They tried to move to the side to avoid the stones. Then I find the first one standing in front of me maybe three meters away. He is the closest to me. He throws a stone at me that passes on my left side, near my head. I felt its mass. If It was 2 cm to the side, he would have split my face open.
"After he throws the stone and misses, he reaches out one hand and almost manages to place it on me, and with the other hand he raises the knife, and I take out the tool I had in my pocket and in a defensive action of a second, I raise my hand to him, he is hit, and I manage to push him from me. It's one second and the whole story is over. A matter of luck. If I don't react in that second, I die. I would get his knife in my heart, in my stomach, who knows where. If he goes through me, then it's the children who are next.
"I did what I had to do at that moment. He fell down at once and gave a cry of pain, and then in an instant, when they perceived that he was on the floor, all three and all the others who were after them, stopped everything, left us, and went to him to take care of him. That ended the whole story in one moment. A great miracle. Later, the investigator from the central unit asked me why I didn't run away. I told him, 'Listen, any of these 12-year-old kids could have been my kid. You would leave your child and run away?' What did they want? That I leave the children and run? I never for one second thought of leaving them."
"It took me a while to realize that I had earned my life. Mine and the children's. That I was alive. In a short time the forces reached me and the whole incident was over. When I left the area, I didn't even know that I had killed the man. I thought he was wounded. By the way, there were a lot of people there, police, army and they did not arrest any of the Arabs.
Denial of rights
"We left there, the police took my ID, asked me what happened, I told them, wrote down my details, and they told me 'go home, if we need to we'll call you.' I returned the children to Ariel, I go down towards the house, and then I get a call from a friend who tells me that the guy is dead. The way he told me that I got an explosion in my heart. It doesn't matter that he is a terrorist and that he came to kill us, the very fact that you kill someone is shocking.
"I tried to calm myself down. I got home very upset. I started wondering what was waiting for me. I couldn't sleep all night. I kept thinking about what was there. We could have all died there. In the morning the police called and told me to go to the Ariel station. I, in the height of my innocence, arrive at the station and plan to tell everything I told you. Then, instead of the police interrogating me, three or four guys in civilian clothes tell me 'We are from the Shin Bet, we want you to accompany us for interrogation.'
"I asked to speak with a lawyer. They told me, 'You are prevented from meeting with a lawyer, you are coming with us to the facility for interrogation.' I told them 'if I can't talk to a lawyer, I don't talk.' They took me to Ashkelon, to their interrogation facility. They put handcuffs on me, hands and feet, and dressed me in the brown uniform of the security detainees, as I had once seen in the picture of Barghouti. Indescribable humiliation.
"I was in this facility for two weeks, and I don't know what it looks like. When I'm in the cell or under interrogation I can see, and in between when I'm outside the cell I have a blindfold on. There were cells there with conditions of a hundred years ago. Grey, smelly. Bad toilet, no shower, no bed, you sleep on a mattress on the floor. They put you in an interrogation room, and you're in some kind of movie. I knew I wasn't at camp, but I wasn't even supposed to be there. I am the victim in this story, not the aggressor. And as the hours pass I realize I'm in a Turkish movie.
"Investigators come in and out, each time a different investigator, some start out nice and then go crazy on you, some go straight into you. They didn't let me sleep, I felt drained. Unable to function. Every time they take me out to the cell to eat and bring me back for questioning. I don't know how much time passes and what time it is.
"The interrogation started when the investigator asks me to tell about myself, then he tells me 'you are a suspect in murder.' I was scared, because this is not the story, and what do I have to do with it. Then I begin to understand from them that they are trying to associate me with a terrorist organization. 'You have a terrorist organization based on children.' And I look at them, and I tell them, 'You are not in the right direction.'"
Why didn't you just tell the investigators what happened to you? I ask A. You have a simple story of self-defense. "It doesn't suit me to talk to people who associate me with a terrorist organization," he replies. "I told them I want a lawyer, and I want to talk to Israel Police. Because when you talk to a police officer, he types everything you say and you read every word and sign. It's not like that in the Shin Bet. They write what they want and when they want. I told them, 'You are accusing me of unfounded accusations, you have testimonies from the children in the field, I am not cooperating with all of this.'
"I was afraid of the Shin Bet that they would leave things out and distort facts. I have no control over what they write. I greatly appreciate the Shin Bet, but here they went too far. If they treat me like a terrorist, I don't talk to them. Do you think I murdered someone? There is Israel Police. They put abnormal pressure on me.
"First of all, this is the interrogation chair. They have a chair there that is attached to the floor, that you are handcuffed to in front of your legs, with your hands tied behind your back. It's a chair that I don't know how they built it, but after five minutes of sitting on it like that, you feel currents in your bones and buttock that start stabbing you and the pain spreads to all the vertebrae in your back, legs and neck. You feel like you're falling apart. I sat there like that for seven or eight hours each time, from meal to meal.
Just the beginning
"And this chair is just the beginning. After that came more difficult things. And I'm already telling you that I'm not going to tell you everything I went through there. I'm ashamed. There are things that I keep to myself and that even my wife doesn't know. They put pressure on you from lack of sleep, and you're exhausted, and you are out of it with fatigue, and they interrogate you non-stop. There was a situation where I physically collapsed on the chair.
"On Friday evening they took me for another interrogation. I'm exhausted, and the investigator asks again to 'tell me from the beginning,' and I just have a conversation with them, not keeping silent, but also not going into the details of the event itself. Then I open my eyes and I see darkness. I am with my eyes open and I don't see the room. I start to feel pressure in my chest, and my chest starts to burn, and I feel like a one and a half ton truck is sitting on me. We are a family with heart troubles. My whole family died from heart troubles. And I have high cholesterol. And I say to the researcher, 'I'm probably going through something, I can't see you, and I have severe chest pains, take me to the clinic.' And he starts to make up his mind about me. 'Have you started with the games?'. I told him 'I'm collapsing. I think I'm having a heart attack.'
"He pulls me in the room for maybe an hour, ignores what I say to him, and I feel like I'm slipping off the chair. I can't hold myself. And he laughs and continues: 'Tell me where you grew up?', as if detached from the event. And I'm exhausted. He tries to move me and force me back into the chair, and I slip again. And he brings me back, and I slip again. Then he calls two people and tells them to 'take him to the clinic'. They tell me 'get up', and I tell them 'I can't'. They take me by the hands, one on the right and one on the left, and drag me like that to the clinic, I think something like 200 meters. And I try to stand up and help them and I fail.
"We get to the clinic. I can't see anything, because my eyes are covered, and someone pulls down my pants and gives me a shot in the ass. I don't know what it was. They call the doctor, he does an EKG, then he takes them aside and says ' It's borderline.' And I hear someone ask him, 'What is borderline, is he going through a cardiac event or does he not going through a cardiac event?' And the doctor answers, 'I can't tell you for sure, but it's borderline.'
"I hear that, and I get even more stressed. They don't take care of me, they don't believe me, they treat me like I'm putting on a show, and I feel terrible. It might have been a show they put on me, but that's what I heard. Then one of them says to the other 'I think he's faking it.' They tell me to 'get up' and I can't. not capable. I have pressure in my chest, I have no blood in my body, everything is spinning. I physically can't stand, even if I want to. Everything burns for me, it's hard for me to breathe. They try to pick me up by force, take me out of the clinic.
"Then someone arrives whose face I haven't seen, and he says to them, 'Let me show you how to lift an interrogee.' He pulls me from the handcuffs, and when you are caught like that you have to stand up, otherwise your hands will be torn off. There is no way to fake it. It is unbearable pain. But I can't stand it. Three months later, my hands were numb from it. And he starts dragging me from the clinic back to the interrogation room, and my pants fall off with my underwear, and my flip flops fall off, and I'm half naked, and he drags me on the floor like that, and there's no mercy, and I'm screaming terribly. I woke up the entire prison facility with my screams.
"He lifted my pants, at some point he must have got tired, then he bent down to me, grabbed me to lift me like that from my stomach, pressed me to him, gave me a squeeze and then I pooped. I'm ashamed to tell this. From his pressing on my stomach I pooped in my pants. And so he takes me all the way to the interrogation room, and slaps me in a chair when I'm all smeared with dirt. At this point I didn't really notice it. I was in crisis. I was convinced I was having a heart attack. And I smell. And I have my eyes closed. And the investigator starts to attack me and starts behaving like a psychopath. He starts walking around me and every time he is behind me he whispers in my ear 'Did you kill him?', 'Did you kill him on purpose?'
A horror movie
"I'm in a horror movie. That's how he walks around me, and every time it comes to me from the other side. 'You killed him on purpose, didn't you? Right?' I can't hold on to the chair and I fall handcuffed. And it hurts. He continues to interrogate me while I'm hanging like that on the chair with the handcuffs. 'Come tell me now what happened.' Then the thug who dragged me there comes again and grabs me by the testicles and lifts me to sit. And I can't resist. And with my last strength I try to help him and pick myself up, and I no longer know what is happening to me. Three times he lifted me by the testicles. It finished me. For the fourth time I fell. I can't. Only then did the investigator call someone, they brought a stretcher and that's how they took me back to the cell.
"There was some guy there in the cell with me, who I kept thinking was a person they had given me to get me to talk, and he was the only one who took care of me. He lifted my legs, and put water on my face, and he asked me, 'What is it, you soiled yourself?' Because that's how they put me back in the cell. And I'm exhausted from fatigue, and as soon as they put me in the cell, that's how I fell asleep. I woke up in the morning covered in poop, took off my pants and there are no showers. There is only a faucet in which I washed myself a little. When I asked to take a shower, they told me 'only in the evening'."
"In the next interrogation, the investigator started everything with me from the beginning. 'What's your name?', I told him, 'Listen, your guys here yesterday almost killed me. From now on I will not speak or talk to you until they bring me a lawyer. Until then it was an easy conversation with them. I told them in general what happened, but without the details. Now I told them 'it's over, I'm only talking to the police and only after they give me a lawyer.'
"My fear was that I would die there from a heart attack or something else and no one would know, and they would tell some story. Therefore, when I arrived at the court for an extension of detention, it was important for me to tell the judge. Let him hear. Let it be written in the protocol. And after I said in court what I went through, that I was dragged and that I was with the excrement on me, in the next interrogation after that, four investigators entered the room. 'Are not you ashamed? Are you speaking badly about us? We will bury you!'
"I spent several unpleasant hours there, things I don't want to go into. Both mentally and physically, I'm ashamed. It's unpleasant. People know me. You have to understand that from the first moment there you feel like you're being made a fool of. They bring you to a situation where you feel small, and you understand that there is a situation where people who have been sitting here for more than two weeks spoke only so that they would leave them and admit to things they did not do. I was also close to saying to the investigator, 'You know what? Tell me what to say, and I will say it.' Do you understand? They thought this was my method. He told me [today] 'I bring small children to the area on purpose so that they don't suspect me, wait for Arabs to arrive to rub shoulders, and then I do what I do and say 'they attacked us.'
"I know there are cases of people who defended themselves and found themselves in prison. I was afraid that at the end of this business I would go out with eight or ten years in my face for something I didn't do. You understand, when I was in custody they took my car and dismantled it. They searched my father's place of business, they searched my house. After all, while they were interrogating me, they collected evidence from others, they already knew it was self-defense, but they insisted on breaking me.
"When they finally let me meet Adi Kidar, my lawyer from 'Chonenu', and transferred me to the police, I started talking and telling everything that happened. I'm a few months beyond it now, and in the meantime they closed my case with nothing, and nothing has returned to the way it was My livelihood has been damaged. My wife has not returned to work since I was arrested. I am also still mentally shaken. Every time I leave the house, my children ask 'Dad, where are you going?', 'Dad, are you coming back today?' A few days after I was arrested, the website 'The Jewish Voice' discovered that some of the guys who attacked me were Hamas operatives. Tell me, is it the job of the press to find that out? Where are the police? Where is the Shin Bet?"
The response of the Shin Bet to this testimony
The Shin Bet's response: "This is a serious incident in which a Palestinian was killed by a stab wound in the chest, which was suspected to be an attack on a nationalist background. When it became clear during the investigation that this was not a planned incident with a nationalist background, the Shin Bet recommended that the investigation be transferred to the police for further processing. The claims regarding the denial of the rights of the interrogated and the descriptions mentioned attributed to the Shin Bet investigators are devoid of any foundation, and are completely false. It will be clarified that the investigation was conducted in accordance with the provisions of the law and is subject to strict judicial review in various procedures and courts. To the extent that claims are made about the manner of the investigation in the Shin Bet, it is under the authority of the Commissioner of Investigative Complaints at the Ministry of Justice to review them. The General Security Service is a state organization, and all its operations are carried out according to law and its investigations are conducted in accordance with the provisions of the law and case law, and are subject to the supervision of the Ombudsman, the state attorneys' offices and the courts."