Tzvi Szajnbrum
To ease the immigration and absorption process for Olim

In the Name of the Law

In the name of the law we often allow ourselves to behave in irrational ways that cannot be explained. A moral predicament that many of us face on a daily basis is how to behave in the name of the law. Should we blindly follow the law or rather use common sense and the knowledge that we had acquired from observing the general population to dictate how we should behave in a society?

This can be especially difficult for new immigrants and tourists because they are accustomed to the laws and morals of their home country. When they move or visit another country, they are expected to change and understand the rules of their new society. A move that can present quite a challenge for the average immigrant.

Now, this brings us to our true story in which Jose a 27-year-old native from Paraguay met Carol a tourist from Germany. They immediately fell in love with each other but, as we will learn, their love turned out to be tragic.

They decided to take a trip to Israel and when they arrived, they decided to go to a huge party in a famous nightclub. That night, for the first time, Jose observed Carol using and distributing illegal drugs with people she had just met. Suddenly, Israeli special police forces came in and arrested 5 suspects for using and distributing dangerous drugs. Jose was among those who were arrested.

He was taken to the police station because he was accused of helping the drug by “not alerting the authorities of the ongoing illegal activities”.
Jose did not know anyone in Israel and is not close with his family in Paraguay. Because of this, he still remains in jail because no one is available to sign for him as his guarantor. In this case, the DA required not 1 but 2 people to be guarantors for the bail. Unfortunately, as we said, Jose does not know anyone in Israel and as a result he cannot be released from jail.

Why is Jose in jail? Israel like any other country, wants to deter people from committing crimes on Israeli soil. That is the purpose of most laws, to deter people from committing crimes. If Israel were to just let Jose go, it may allow people in the future to think that his type of behavior is acceptable in Israel. The state is now faced with quite a quandary for on the one hand it seems pretty ridiculous to keep Jose in jail. But on the other hand, Israel wants to prevent people from engaging in this type of illicit behavior in the future.

To make matters worse Jose suffers from AIDS which is costing Israel a small fortune to maintain his health in jail. The police have asked that he remain in Israel for at least an extra 30 days to complete the investigation.

He faces a choice:

The bail is a meager 250 dollars which Jose can afford but if he remains in jail, he has a free place to stay and no medical bills. Obviously, he will choose to stay in jail because of his medical condition and the free place to stay. But think about at who’s expense: the Israeli taxpayers. However, even if he were to pay the 250 dollar bail, the problem of the guarantors is still not resolved, meaning Jose has no real freedom of choice in this case.

The state is claiming that “the law is the law” and it must be obeyed. But should it be the responsibility of the taxpayers of Israel to hold this individual in jail and pay for his medical expenses even though the crime he committed is a very small infraction of the law by Israeli standards? Shouldn’t Israel be spending more time and resources deterring more serious crimes?

Israel could easily deport Jose right now and put an end to his suffering. Jose is all alone in Israel. He does not have any friends or relatives to rely on. Carol is in jail and will not be released. If they were to just deport Jose, this would easily stop the wasteful resources and manpower being spent to maintain his living situation while in jail.

“In the name of the law” is costing taxpayers a fortune and what is the real purpose of all of this? Isn’t the point of the law to prevent drug trafficking in Israel? It seems extremely peculiar that Israel would choose to keep this man in jail who clearly was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and did not actually sell drugs or even use them!
Only bad things can come from Jose’s lengthy detention. What will happen if Jose has a stroke or even worse, he kills himself while in jail because he is depressed? The Israeli government could be held responsible for his death.

This entire situation is unnecessary. If the crime was serious such as robbery for example, it would make sense to keep Jose in jail and pay his medical expenses. Israel wants to prevent crimes that would be detrimental to Israeli society such as murder etc. But if you look at a crime like being present at the scene of a drug transaction or even assisting the drug dealers, is it really worth the taxpayers’ money to hold him in detention and pay his medical expenses and his free court appointed lawyers? In my opinion the answer is – absolutely not.

This brings us back to our original discussion about where the line should be drawn: Should we follow the rules blindly even when it is costs the Israeli taxpayers a ton of money? Or should we “cut our losses” and let Jose go?

For me, the choice is clear. It makes no sense to keep Jose in detention. We should be using our taxes for better purposes in Israel such as preventing crimes that have real social consequences and impact our lives and not with a tourist that will be gone in few days anyway.

It makes no sense for us to hold Jose and it will not do Israeli society any good in the long run. But the District Attorney’s office has too big of an ego and nobody is willing to them find a ladder to descend the tree they have erroneously climbed.

The case is still in court, case # 20435-06-17 – Names and personal details in this article were modified to keep their privacy

About the Author
Passionate about helping new immigrants, Tzvi Szajnbrum, Attorney at Law and Notary, founded the Voleh Organization, through which he and a team of volunteers provide “pro-bono” guidance to English speaking new immigrants, helping to ensure their successful integration into Israeli Society. As a former officer in the Israeli army, Tzvi is also able to help lead new immigrants in the right direction regarding the IDF. CEO of The Szajnbrum Group
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