Monday, July 21, 2003

“Let My Husband Go”

“Let My Husband Go”
July 21, 2003


Since last Thursday night the name Shalhevet has returned to headlines, which read, “Shalhevet’s father arrested by Israeli intelligence forces.” 

Yesterday close to two hundred people protested the arrest of Itzik Pass and his brother-in-law, Mati Shvu, and the repressive conditions they are encountering in a Jerusalem Shabak detention center. The protests took place at Shabak intelligence headquarters in Talpiot in Jerusalem and later, at the Jerusalem District court, while a hearing was being conducted concerning the injunction forbidding the men’s meeting with their attorney, Naftali Wertzberger. Several people were arrested and police forcibly dispersed the demonstrators at the courthouse.

Earlier today I had a conversation with Oriya Pass, Itzik Pass’ twenty-four year old wife. Oriya, who grew up in Hebron, has seen a lot in her life. Her father, Avraham Zarbiv, was axed in the head and critically wounded by two terrorists over a decade ago. He shot and killed one of his attackers, and then dropped his gun. When the second terrorist picked up the fallen weapon and tried to shoot Avraham, the gun jammed.

Oriya’s twin sister, Ortal, married to Mati Shvu, arrested together with Itzik, was stabbed by a terrorist near their Hebron home when the girls were seventeen.

And just over two years ago, Oriya and Itzik’s first born daughter, Shalhevet, was shot and killed by an Arab sniper from the Abu Sneneh hills in the parking lot outside the Avraham Avinu neighborhood. Shalhevet, 10 months old, was in her stroller. The bullet that penetrated Shalhevet’s head also hit Itzik in the legs, wounding him.

These are some of the events in Oriya Pass’ life, excepting, of course, everything else she has witnessed –  numerous terror attacks, the killing of friends, and wounding of others.

I asked Oriya what she would like to convey to you, to people who she cannot reach directly. This is what she said:

“The police called me at about nine o’clock Thursday night. The only thing they told me was that Itzik had been arrested. They refused to let me speak with him; they wouldn’t tell me why he’d been arrested, or where he was being held. They wouldn’t even tell me when he would be brought to court for an initial hearing.

I thought that the arrest wasn’t anything serious. Two months ago he was arrested in Kiryat Arba, dragged from our car, and then released a short time later when the police realized that they’d made a mistake. It wasn’t until Friday morning, when I received word that he couldn’t meet his lawyer, and that he was being held by the ‘Shabak’ the Israeli intelligence forces, that I realized that something unusual was happening.

This whole episode is very strange. This morning Supreme Court justice Dalia Dorner, when upholding the original court injunction forbidding him from meeting his lawyer, said that Itzik is accused of ‘belonging to a terrorist organization.’ The newspapers say that he gave money to buy gas tanks to blow up an Arab girl’s school in Jerusalem. We heard about all of these charges a year ago, when the original “Bat Ayin group” was arrested. Why didn’t they arrest him then? Why did they wait a year? Why is considered to be ‘more dangerous’ today than he was a month ago? The person making the accusation is unknown to us, Itzik never met him and doesn’t know him. And in any case, there is no justification for not letting him meet his lawyer and for denying him sleep.

I think that the charges are totally false. The Prime Minister and the head of the Shabak, Avi Dichter, should be ashamed of themselves, arresting a bereaved father, while preparing to release hundreds of terrorist murderers.

I really don’t understand why they’re doing this to us. It not only disturbs me, but also my two baby daughters, Renana and Nachala. Renana is two years old. Yesterday she didn’t feel well and refused to go to day care. Nachala is one year old and now she wants me to hold her all the time. She’s not like that; she’s very friendly and independent. They understand that something’s happening.

Itzik is a real family man. He knows how much I need him at home. I’m very sensitive, and he knows how hard it would be for me to maintain our home without him. Even after Shalhevet was killed, he didn’t express a personal need to avenge her murder. Of course when your daughter is killed, it hurts, it hurts a lot, and it leaves many scars. But we dealt with that. We initiated the Rinat Shalhevet Kollel Torah study center in her memory. Itzik learns there every day. But, as opposed to others there, he doesn’t get a salary. We earn our living from my salary. I’m a teacher’s aide in the Kiryat Arba religious boy’s school, helping children with learning disabilities.

I know that the police and other security forces don’t like the kollel because it is very active. Whenever the government tries to uproot communities in Yesha, the kollel students go to help out. Itzik has always been very active. Maybe that’s why they harass him.

Yesterday we heard rumors that Itzik is staging a hunger strike. One of the guards said that he’s not eating, just drinking. We know they’re not letting him sleep, so he must be very weak.

I have no doubt that all of these charges will be refuted and Itzik will be allowed to come home to his family. I hope that people all over the world will express their shock at such brutal treatment of my husband and my brother-in-law, Mati Shvu. Our family has suffered enough. Why put us though this too?

The only blood on my husband’s hands is the blood of our daughter, of Shalhevet. All I can ask is that they let my husband go.”

With blessings from Hebron,
This is David Wilder

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