Israel: at war with its impoverished citizens

Marianne Azizi writes:

As Hana Gan*, the Canadian woman trapped in Israel, awaits her fate in the Israeli courts, more people are coming forward to share their stories of being held in Israel with no hope of a normal life.

Here is one such story from Billy Leybel, an Israeli.

I am living in Israel, but I can’t really call it living, because my life is only about survival. Born in 1974, I had an amazing mum and a man I cannot even call my “father”. I wasn’t really popular at school, and was bullied a lot, only to return home to my father, who also beat me. I left home at 16, preferring to live in the street and escape my hellish childhood. I encountered the police many times, not because I did anything criminal – I was just an easy target for them.

When I reached 18, I refused to join the Israeli army. I spent so much time in prison because of my refusal. Eventually, at the age of 33, I found a really good job in a print shop. It was in a very religious city and I was hassled every day for six years. Sadly, I got a medical condition which affected my legs and I was unable to work.

My ex-wife used the system to falsely claim that I had hit her and tried to kill her. Just on the basis of her words and without any investigation, I was sent to prison for two weeks. I was then placed under house arrest for a year while I waited for the court to eventually find me innocent.

Even then, I had to pay for my ex-wife’s claim and deposit money to the court – a total of USD 1,750, which I didn’t have.

As a result of all this, I am not allowed to have a credit card, I cannot have a bank account or even a driving licence. I currently receive USD 750 (2,500 shekels) in disability payments per month to live on. So, how am I supposed to live and work without a car. I am not allowed to leave Israel to find work abroad. I left a small prison as an innocent man to live in a bigger prison – Israel itself.

Please think: I had a disability and find it difficult to walk but I’m not allowed to have a car. The money the government gives me is all taken back. I can only dream about leaving Israel. The laws which appear to hold me appear centuries old. The Israeli government doesn’t want its citizens to have a life, just an existence.

I want the world to know there is a big difference between Israeli citizens and the Israeli government. We don’t have hate in our hearts, and so many Jews and Muslims live great together. I have so many Muslim friends, and I give them the respect they deserve in every aspect of life.

Love is the only way to get life. Hate brings killing and death to us all. Only governments around the world make hate, not us the people.

I am an Israeli Jew and for thousands of us we want to be humans, not treated like animals by the Israeli government. The money I receive is not even half of the minimum wage. The minimum rent here is 2,500 shekels (USD 750). Even people who earn 10,000 shekels cannot always last a full month on their income.

I am begging Israel to release me and let me find somewhere else in the world to live. You think it is easy to write this openly. I am on the edge of breaking. It will only take one more small thing, and I will be pushed to kill myself. For what life do I have?

Billy’s story is by no means unique. As domestic issues bring involvement from the state far too quickly, the ability to defend false accusations by warring families is almost impossible. Children are removed from their natural parents before any enquiries are made. Billy refused to serve in the Israeli and fight against his childhood friends and neighbours, like many more.

It seems a small request to the Israeli government to make reforms and restore civil rights and liberties to their own people. Yet activists have been asking for years but their requests fall on deaf ears.

The reason why so many people are in poverty could be due to the lack of freedom so many people suffer. Family breakdown is causing more children to be in distress.

As an election looms with much rhetoric about protecting the children from alleged international threats, the people inside Israel are dealing with their own domestic threats to their livelihood, their children and their own survival.

*For more information on Hana Gan, visit the Trapped in Israel Facebook Page.

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