An Arab resident of Hebron who had undergone a conversion in Israel and was detained and tortured by the Palestinian Authority since Yom Kippur, was released last Thursday.
Sameh Zeitoun, who changed his name to David Ben Avraham, spent Shabbat in Jerusalem.
Ben Avraham, 50, was working temporarily in a Jerusalem supermarket, and before Rosh Hashanah, after studying at the Meir Institute, he was converted to Judaism by the late Rabbi Nissim Karelitz, whose Bnei Brak court is considered very strict on standards of conversion. The court’s conversions are recognized by the Chief Rabbinate as well as the High Court of Justice.
Because of the holidays, Ben Avraham has not yet completed the process to become officially recognized by the Chief Rabbinate, so he is yet to become a citizen of Israel. The IDF Civil Administration’s welfare department met the convert several times before his arrest, to see if he required humanitarian aid, and granted him an Israeli temporary residence permit.
On the eve of Yom Kippur, Ben Avraham met one of his nine children, all of whom, as well as his wife, are still Muslims – near the Carmi Tzur settlement. During the meeting, a white Skoda with four Arab men appeared, abducted Ben Avraham and dropped him off at the PA’s Hebron police station.
Ben Avraham called Hebron resident Haim Parag several times from his detention cell, for only a few minutes each time, and described the blows he was absorbing and even claimed that his tormentors had burned his hands and feet. Parag had supported him through the conversion process.
“They handcuffed me and took me to jail,” Ben Avraham told Ynet last Friday. “I took a lot of beatings there.”
According to Parag, “the man’s grandfather saved 26 Jews in the 1929 pogrom in Hebron. Now that he is in danger, we have a historic obligation to help him.”
According to Ben Avraham, Islamic clergymen came to his cell to try to bring him back to Islam. “I refused,” he said, “because I decided to become a part of the Jewish people and I have no intention of going back.”
As punishment, besides the beatings, he was denied food and water, and as a result “I fainted three times and they took me to a hospital.”