Monday, May 9, 2005

'The Jews will be victorious'

'The Jews will be victorious'
An interview with Naomi Ofen
May 9, 2005


Last night 34 year old Neria Ofen, from the Yitzhar community, was incarcerated via an administrative arrest warrant. This morning I interviewed his wife, Naomi.

Tell us a little about your family:
We have a regular family with four cute children. We live on the eastern hilltop of Yitzhar, we've been here for about six years. We are married almost 9 years. Our oldest child is eight and the youngest, one. Neria grew up in Jerusalem and learned in Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva in Shechem.

What kind of activities is Neria involved with?
Neria helped found and organize Sivuv Sha'arim (Around the Gates), when Jews sing and dance around the walls of the old city in Jerusalem, on the eve of every new month, hoping and praying for the for rebuilding BetMikdash, the Temple in Jerusalem. They began this about four or five years ago. He works very closely with the policemen and police officers.  Everything is done with full cooperation and coordination with police – As a matter of fact, the policeman who arrested him last night said, "I know Neria him from Sivuv Sha'arim. What's this all about?'

So Neria knows a lot of people?
As a result of these activities, Neria knows tens of thousands of people.

What did he do when Sharon's expulsion plans started? Did he do anything?
Of course, just like every Jew who cares and cannot sit quietly, watching such a terrible thing. He worked primarily with the project, "Jews don't expel Jews," explaining to soldiers and police to listen to their Jewish conscience and not participate in this.

What kinds of persuasion did he use – would he try to convince anyone violently?
No, he is very gentile. He only talks, even when he's arrested, he just sits and talks with police, helps them put on them tefillin – he's not a person of force -  he's an ideologue- he speaks and explains, but not with force.

What happened last night?
We were on the way to Sivuv Sha'arim, the monthly program in the old city. It had been canceled because the police were afraid that Jews would try to get onto HarHaBayit, Temple Mount. But Neria's conscience wouldn't allow him to stay home, abandoning the plaza in front of Temple Mount, by the Wall.  The organization has a rule that if the event is canceled, someone has to be there to greet those who didn't hear that it was canceled, and to tell them. We all drove in. And when we arrived in Jerusalem we were stopped by plain clothes police who identified themselves and told Neria to accompany them. They wouldn't let me give him money or a cell phone.  I said to them, "let me give him money so he'll be able to get home after he's released, how will he get home?"  

They laughed at me and said "no he won't be coming home, it will be a long time, within 48 hours he'll see a judge." I asked why 48 hours, because according to law, he can see a judge within 24 hours. They answered,   "yes, but this is a special case,  the defense minister himself signed the warrant so it will be 48 hours." When I said, "I understand that it's an administrative arrest," they didn’t answer me. They ignored me.

Has anyone called you?
From the police? No. And I haven't spoken to Neria since. No one else has called me except MK Aryeh Eldad who wished me a kind of congratulations (yashar koach).

Did you expect this to happen?
From the beginning of this expulsion plan we would talk, with neighbors, on Shabbat, it was clear that they would do this, use administrative arrests, like with the Oslo Accords. When they want to do something like this and there are opponents, they use these kinds of tactics.

Did he see himself as a candidate for administrative arrest?
No, not on a personal level, we discussed it more on a more general level, and unfortunately I don't think he'll be the last one.

According to media reports today, Neria was arrested because he was planning attacks against Arabs.
That's a good joke. He's not the right person. I'm not saying it's good or not good to do such things, but it's not him. Let's put it that way, it's not Neria!  He wouldn't touch a fly.

So why was he arrested?
It's Ariel Sharon. He knows that there are people who are so dedicated that they are willing to give everything for our land and Neria is one of them.  Sharon's under pressure, pressure that's preventing him from doing what he wants. 

Neria isn't an organizer, he was never a 'public figure' who was invited to meetings, someone who everyone knows his name. We are very simple people. He wasn't really involved, except for Sivuv Sha'arim, which was his pet project. He's not one of the heads of Yesha.

Did he ever receive any kind of warning due to his activities with 'Jews don't expel Jews?"
Never. Neria is not a secretive person. Everything he did was out in the open. Everything. He's not secretive. The opposite is true. When talking  with friends, he would tell them to be openly arrested,  not to be afraid, not to do things 'behind other's backs.'  That's the way it was with Sivuv Sha'arim , everything was done with full cooperation  with the police. He's not the right person.

Did you take a lawyer?
Take a lawyer?  It was really funny.  The policeman told me to call Zangi (Shmuel Medad) from Honenu [] (Watch the movie!). "He'll take care of everything, he knows what to do, they do the work great." I told him I know Zangi and thanks for the advice.  And they are taking care of it, it's not my responsibility. It's a big mitzvah to donate to Honenu. Anyone who wants can contribute to them and say it's for Neria.  I'm not involved in the legal side of things. Thank G-d I have four children and I'm a teacher.  That's what my time is for.

You don't sound overly upset.
Look, I can't tell you that I'm  happy and that I slept well last night. But, if this is what's right to do, if this is the price we have to pay because we love Eretz Yisrael, we'll pay it with joy and happiness.

So you wouldn't tell people to stop being active, because they might be arrested and leave their wife and kids alone for a few months?
No, to the contrary, I would tell everyone that they should be arrested, they should go out and block roads and be arrested.

Look, I have four children. I live in a hill-top community, not in a regular community, not in a protected house with everything close by. My children are very dependant on me to get from place to place and I work a full-time, I'm a classroom teacher.  My life isn't a summer camp.  I don't have a grandmother living next store to make our lunch every day. It's clear that now things will be more difficult, we'll have to rearrange our lives – Shabbat, holidays, that's clear.  He's supposed to be arrested until after the expulsion, the order is for four and a half months.

What did you do after Neria was arrested?
We went shopping in Jerusalem. After Passover the house was empty.

What happened to you on your way home?
On the way home they threw a fire-bomb at us near an Arab village, near Eli. It didn't hit the car, we saw the fire and kept driving.  There weren't any security forces in the area,  not even one jeep. That area is very problematic. Not long ago they threw rocks at us there. It's a well known Arab village.  There's an Arab house there that the army used as an outpost but now, because of the peace…  they removed the outpost, but the army know about the area…

And now?
Now we are rearranging our lives.  We are happy with our lot in life. We have a father – a good father – a tzadik, a righteous man, and we're proud of his deeds. Let me conclude with the words of Adir Zik, of blessed memory:  "The Jews will be victorious."

With blessings from Hebron.

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