Charge Him or Release Him: The Saga of Mordechai Meyer

As many others have, I have followed the continuing saga of Mordechai Meyer of Maale Adumim. You will recall that he is a young man, who turned 18 on March 12th, and who was recently taken from his home and put into jail under the rules of Administrative Detention. This rule of law permits a person to be taken by the government and placed into jail — with no evidence of wrongdoing presented to the family or the accused, with no official charges and with no way of defending oneself.

Even though it seems undemocratic, it is eminently logical that administrative detention is meant to address a situation of an imminent threat. In cases where there simply is no time for proper due process, and there is a need to protect the public, the idea of administrative detention would be appropriately used. The best example of where this should have been used was the case of Yishai Schlissel. After spending  ten years in prison for stabbing three people at a gay parade, he was released just prior to the latest gay parade. With him having shown no remorse coupled with the fact that the next gay parade was imminent, it would appear that he would have been the perfect candidate for administrative detention. Had administrative detention been used properly in this case, he would not have attacked, and Shira Banki would still be alive.

But, barring any imminent threat, there is no real reason to detain someone for six months.

As a friend and neighbor, I wanted to sit down with Mordechai’s parents, Rav Gedalia and Suri to discuss what is happening, given the fact that the police have not stated why Mordechai is in jail. Any quotes below are direct quotes from his parents.

First we discussed media coverage. There have been press reports claiming that Mordechai was arrested in connection with the tragic arson fire in Duma that claimed the life of a baby and his father. The Meyers pointed out that till this day, no Jew or Arab has actually been charged with this terrible crime. What is clear, is that only the media (and not the police) have attempted to make a connection between Mordechai’s administrative detention and Duma.

A timeline before and after Mordechai was taken into administrative detention will help clarify the relevant facts.

On June 17, 2015, there was an arson attack on the historic Church of Multiplication located in Tabgha on the Sea of Galilee. Three weeks later, on July 11, 2015, Mordechai was arrested in connection with that fire. He was held for five days with no access to a lawyer and for a further ten days of interrogation. During that time, neither Mordechai nor his parents  were presented with any evidence as to why he was arrested. Then, on July 26th, he was released to house arrest for ten days, which ended on August 4, 2015. From the time he was first arrested on July 11th until the end of house arrest on August 4th, no charges were filed; no evidence was presented to Mordechai, his lawyer nor to his parents, to connect him in any way with that arson  fire.  While under house arrest, Rav Gedalia and Suri Meyer both strongly insist that he remained in the house the entire time, not even leaving for prayers or any other visits outside the home. For clarification, Mordechai was under house arrest from July 26 until August 4, while the attack in Duma took place on the night of July 30th.

On the evening of August 4, the police showed up at the door of the Meyer’s home with an order signed by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. This was an administrative detention order, and Mordechai was taken away without any indication of any crime committed or any charges filed. The church was not mentioned…Duma was not mentioned…nothing was mentioned.

Knowing that that there are those who might assume that if someone is taken into administrative detention, there must have been some reason that he was taken into custody, I asked the Meyers how they would respond to such an assumption

The Meyers calmly and logically explained: After the security forces failed to find those culpable for the arson in the church in the north, and after security forces failed to stop Schlissel from committing a most predictable attack, and, finally, after the Duma attack and several days later when there were still no suspects, Jew, Arab or Christian, the police “needed to show that they were doing something in reaction to the incidents.” For this reason the Meyers have repeatedly referred to their son as a scapegoat.

At this point I asked the Meyers why they thought: why him, and why the two other boys who were taken into detention? Again, I quote their reply:

“The security forces looked pretty ineffective, when they let a man, who stabbed three people, at this very parade, 10 years ago, wander freely in the streets and then stab, and kill, a mere two weeks after his release at that same parade. The police were under great pressure after that attack. When on the next day there was a barbaric attack and an Arab baby died, the police had to take some action. Without looking into local Arab clan wars, without noting that the location of the home in the village of Duma was deep in the middle of the village, making access to an outsider extremely unlikely. There were several other oddities about the whole incident, and  they went around making numerous arrests of young Jews, one of whom was our son.”

Administrative Detention is a logical and necessary tool that can be used to protect society from imminent  danger. For example: if someone has access to explosives, the individual should be placed in detention while any and all connections of that individual are checked. Such detention should be used prior to an attack and not in response to an attack. If Mordechai was under house arrest; if it was not felt that he posed an imminent threat, then clearly political motives have entered into the equation. If evidence exists, the police have an obligation to present it and use it to file formal charges!

In a democracy, an individual should have the right to defend himself; but this requires them to know what they are defending themselves against. You cannot defend against administrative detention because there are no charges against which to defend. Administrative detention should only be used in extreme conditions which involve an imminent danger to life and or property.

This situation needs to be corrected immediately!

The ironic aspect to this situation is that the very evening that 18 year old Mordechai was taken into detention, according to his parents, he was working on finding courses to take in the building industry, which is his passion. He was planning for his future. He was looking ahead and not sitting plotting something sinister. I found parents who are very concerned, very loving and very optimistic that Israel will deliver justice for their son.

As any parent can understand, and anyone would be distressed to learn, Rav Gedalia and Suri have limited access to Mordechai. But they do know that, as of the time I spoke with them, he had not been questioned (that was already done when he was arrested in July — and then he was sent to house arrest). On a bright note, the Meyers have been overwhelmed with the amazing support they are getting from the Maale Adumim community.

This is what the Meyers are doing now. They are seeking as much access as possible to their son; meeting with his lawyer to further understand the legal aspects. In addition, they are requesting the help of all those who believe that Mordechai should not be held in administrative  detention. They request that people contact members of Knesset and ask that Mordechai be charged or released. And, as Orthodox Jews, they ask that you keep  Mordechai Eliyahu ben Sara Dubra in your prayers.

I found the Meyers to be a very loving family, desperate to help their son and brother. I found them to be firm in their belief that the police should either charge Mordechai or release him. To help people follow Mordechai’s ordeal, you can like the Facebook page set up to keep people informed.

After the sheer police incompetence of the gay parade attack, and the ongoing inability to find the true culprits of the arson attack in the Church of the Multiplication and in the arson murder in Duma, the police are abusing administrative detention to erase their own mistakes and incompetence.

The Meyers are deeply involved in their community. They have continuously shown their love of Israel and their ongoing love and kindness to all people, which continues even in these difficult days. We can only hope for a quick resolution in this difficult situation.

The Meyers wish to make their message very clear: “If there is no evidence against Mordechai — release him!”

About the Author
After living in Chicago for 50 years, the last 10 of which Zev Shandalov served as a shul Rav and teacher in local Orthodox schools, his family made Aliya to Maale Adumim in July 2009. Shandalov currently works as a teacher, mostly interacting with individual students.