Photo Credit: Yitzhar's Facebook page
Coats hanging at the Yitzhar men's mikvah

Legal aid society Honenu on Tuesday filed an $8,500 suit with the Jerusalem Magistrate Court on behalf of a Yitzhar yeshiva student, against policemen from the Central Unit of the Judea and Samaria Police. The grounds for the suit are violation of privacy and sexual harassment following the entrance of policemen into the Yitzhar mikvah in order to demand the complainant’s ID card while he was naked.

The incident took place on April 30, 2017, when police carrying out a raid in Yitzhar, an Israeli community south of Shechem, entered the mens’ mikvah in search of a suspect. The plaintiff described his encounter with them:

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“I went to the mikvah to immerse before early morning prayers, and suddenly, while in the shower, the curtain was pulled open and a riot policeman Yassam) shined a flashlight at me and demanded my ID card. I told him, ‘Are you crazy? You think I shower with my ID card on?

“He left. I expected him to wait for me outside the mikvah. I immersed and went to the dressing room with a towel covering myself. He was waiting for me there and took my personal information. Only then did he allow me to get dressed. It was an embarrassing and humiliating experience. Their conduct was inhumane and insulting.”

On May 3, 2017, a complaint was filed against said policemen and detectives from the Judea and Samaria Central Unit Police regarding the police check on a Yitzhar resident while he was nude and showering at the mikvah. The complaint was rejected by the police.

In a statement accompanying the lawsuit, Honenu Attorney Chayim Bleicher told the Jerusalem Magistrate Court that “many red lines have been crossed concerning the violation of privacy rights and human dignity, for which there was neither cause nor need.”

Bleicher stated that entering a place such as a mikvah in which people are generally not clothed exacerbates the violation and police should have exercised better judgment before abruptly entering the site in an manner which would definitely violate the privacy of the people present.

Bleicher described the repeated violations of privacy during the incident: “After the policemen discerned the presence of the complainant, who was completely naked at the time, they shined a flashlight on him and demanded his ID card, which increased the humiliation and the severity of the sexual harassment.”

“Also, after the complainant left the shower, the policemen began to interrogate him and verify his identity without allowing him time to get organized and dressed according to the norms of human decency.”

“The entire incident transpired in the mikvah building, in the presence of other men in addition to the complainant. In the end the policemen determined that the student was not the suspect for whom they were searching and left him alone.”

The complainant and his attorneys are of the opinion that the conduct of the policemen indicates “an ingrained presence of inappropriate norms among the security forces regarding their treatment of the residents of Yitzhar and the surrounding area, which were evident in this incident due to the hurtful and humiliating conduct.”

Honenu Attorney Bleicher also stated that “it is important that the laws of human rights, individual rights and certainly the right to privacy are kept regarding all citizens, including Yitzhar residents.”

“There is no cause for their rights to be trampled. It is important that the policemen understand and admit this, and also that if they want to fulfill their duties, they carry them out in accordance with the law, in a manner which respects individuals and does not harm citizens. When there is an extreme deviation from appropriate conduct, we have no choice other than to file suit and compensate the injured individuals. We hope that [the ramifications of] this incident will serve as a deterrent.”

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