Israelis threatened with jail if they try to leave

Israeli police

By Marianne Azizi

“We are tens of thousands” was a message I received the other day from one of the myriad of people without the freedom to leave Israel.

They are not criminals. Is this just a common visa issue? Absolutely not. They don’t even have to be citizens of Israel.

It may be difficult to get your head around a scandalous issue within Israel’s borders, but tens of thousands of No Exit orders (a document preventing travel by any means, walking, driving, swimming, flying, etc.) are handed out annually to men, women and even children.

Disagree, agree, give an opinion, but it is indisputable that the draconian family laws in Israel are enforced by using a dangerous weapon. The weapon is curtailing freedom of movement. Usually it is for an alleged debt, or a need for future financial security in divorcing couples. You don’t have to be a debtor, just an alleged one. While Israel battles its bordering neighbours, inside the country individuals are battling each other.

Trying to leave with a No Exit Order incurs a two-year prison sentence. If someone helps you – and there is evidence that smuggling people out of Israel is a big business – they will also incur a prison sentence. Returning to Israel, if someone has placed the order on you while you are abroad, also incurs an automatic sentence.

Seven years ago my life was turned upside down when my husband Ilan and I went for a week’s holiday to Israel. He never returned home, becoming one of the many thousands of victims of a No Exit Order…

Seven years ago my life was turned upside down when my husband Ilan and I went for a week’s holiday to Israel. He never returned home, becoming one of the many thousands of victims of a No Exit Order, Travel Ban or Stop Order, to give a few alternative names for it. It meant he could not leave Israel’s borders, without a minimum deposit of USD 150,000 and exchanging three Israeli citizens’ freedom for his own.

He didn’t commit a crime and had no debt. He just didn’t want to live in Israel anymore.

Our home was in England and we had a peaceful life doing all the things regular couples do. Ilan had loved his country, served in the army, continuing to volunteer long after his compulsory service. He was sympathetic to Arabs, employing a majority in his business, a small help for their self-worth.

Today, he is a shell of a man, dehumanized and broken. His loyalty was repaid by a system of abuse so breathtakingly shocking I was compelled to write a book to educate the public.

During my battle with the systems and their random decision making, I had to face terrible truths regarding the culture. With regard to divorce and alleged debts, it is one of the most barbaric I’ve ever encountered in a “democratic” country. Fathers are ripped from their children aged six or under, based on the Tender Years Assumption, a law which determines only the mother has a right to custody automatically, no questions asked, whether unfit or not.

…travel ban orders are easily obtained, even against foreign citizens, with a few choice accusations, mostly unfounded, and often done ex parte, meaning the victim doesn’t always know, and only discovers the truth when they try to leave the country.

As a result, contact centre visits are nearly six times higher than the global norm. Ritalin use in Israeli children is one of the highest in the world. And rampant parental alienation syndrome is destroying the fabric of family life.

These travel ban orders are easily obtained, even against foreign citizens, with a few choice accusations, mostly unfounded, and often done ex parte, meaning the victim doesn’t always know, and only discovers the truth when they try to leave the country.

Men are often expected to pay more than their salary in child support in divorce cases. In Ilan’s case, a snap judgment was made for 36 years child support to be deposited, taking his daughter’s support at that time to the age of 44, one year older than her father was on the day the judgment was made.

The official suicide rate is one per day, post-traumatic stress disorder is unrecognized for these people, and the psychological damage of losing one’s freedom is disregarded.


Marianne Azizi is author of the book Sour Milk and Stolen Honey.

A version of this article was first published by the website IAcknowledge. The version here is published by permission of Marianne Azizi.

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