Stanford professor left barefoot, homeless and trapped in Israel for 15 years

Trapped in Israel: Gary's case
By Marianne Azizi

An American citizen was left homeless and barefoot in Israel, and those who provided him with shoes were punished by the courts.

Gary visited Israel for a long weekend to attend his son’s coming of age – or bar mitzvah – ceremony. He was already a divorced man. He had emigrated to Israel (or “made aliyah”) many years before and, after his marriage broke down, he was told by an Israeli court that it would be better if he left Israel and went back to the USA to continue working as he would be better able to provide financially for his children.

Gary’s eldest son is now 28 years of age and is to become a father himself. All good news so far, except that since the bar mitzvah Gary has been held in Israel for 15 years. He is a dual national and is drowning in litigation. He did not know he had a No Exit Order placed upon him until he was at Ben Gurion airport. There he was turned back and since then has been unable to find his way home. He was ordered to pay money for child support for six children in advance, a sum of money so extortionate that only a multi-millionaire could pay.

From professor to pauper

Gary had arrived in Israel with absolutely no debt, no arrears, not one cent. At that time he was a professor at Stanford University and, after six weeks of being trapped, he no longer had a position. He was fired. He was ordered to pay 38,000 shekels [USD 9,693] each month for his kids. He turned to the American embassy, which provided him with a temporary apartment. Throughout the 15 years during which he was trapped in Israel, the embassy provided him with accommodation on four occasions, a total of two years in all. He has been homeless, living in hostels, and was forced to take a job in Israel which paid him between 5,000-8,000 shekels net [USD 1,275-2,041]. The court ordered that 100 per cent of his salary be taken towards the monthly payment, leaving him with absolutely nothing to live on, other than handouts and help.

Gary and his wife were divorced in America and there both salaries were taken into account and all finances were settled. But in Israel his former wife and the authorities decided to ignore the rulings and do it their own way. His ex-wife is one of the richest women in Israel. She is the business partner of a billionaire and lives in one of the most expensive penthouses in Israel. Because a woman’s income is ring-fenced, Gary was left penniless and unable to return to the US to keep his job and pay his dues, as he had intended.

Worthless judgement

On the first night he was in the accommodation, Gary saw across the street his ex-wife’s attorney sitting with the judge handling his case. It turned out that the lawyer and the judge were a couple, and actually had another joint business making serious money. He filed a complaint immediately and the judge was forced to recuse himself from Gary’s case. Gary knows of dozens of cases where this particular lawyer can never lose – and he can provide evidence to prove it.

Eventually, after nine years, Gary received a judgment acknowledging that the child support demand was ridiculous, and the required payment was reduced by 92 per cent retroactively. Good news, but not in Israel – the bailiffs who received the judgment have not acted upon it! Things got so desperate that Gary found himself in the attention of the Israeli press for sleeping in the woman’s section of a synagogue and bathing in the mikveh, the women’s bathing area.

At one point, Gary became very ill. He says there were 57 motions and 11 lawyers involved just to get him some healthcare. He was fortunate to get pro bono lawyers, and during the time three of them took pity on him and gave him some shoes and clothes to wear, out of their own kindness. But they were interrogated by the courts and asked how Gary could afford new shoes if 100 per cent of his salary was being seized. The attorneys in question were disbarred for helping him.

For six year, Gary has not been able to find a lawyer, hence the inability to get the court decision enforced by the bailiff. It might be incredulous at this point that a man is still trapped in Israel when his youngest child is just short of 21 years old. His ex-wife has an attorney but, to avoid paying fees, the attorney has been appointed for the children. They have never had their names removed.

Gary has been alienated from his children and described as a non-paying father, a loser. From his salary, 350 shekels [USD 89] a month is allocated for his ex-wife’s beauty routine, such as nail manicure and hairdressing.

Ongoing trauma

Gary has had a couple of opportunities to be taken out of Israel. There is always the risky black market for smuggling people out. He was told that if he did leave, he could never return and would probably never speak to his children again. He turned down the offer, but still lost contact with his children anyway.

He was asked: “Do you want to go home to the USA? The answer was a quick: “Of course. What I want is the freedom to choose.” He was asked: “If you could go now, would you?” The answer was not quite so easy. He has no home in America now and no job, and he admits that he is suffering from massive trauma. Not post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), because that would mean the trauma is past. He suffers, like many, from ongoing complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD), a more complicated form which leaves a person with nothing but existence.

What barbaric cruelty is involved to strip a man of his dignity, liberty and freedom – the same principles which are stated in Israel’s Basic Law.

Gary is not the only one to suffer in this way. Each victim has to exist in some alternate form of life. There is no opportunity to live normally.

Last month, Gary finally got the ear of American embassy. Perhaps from there he can start to file appeals.

The walking dead

It is not just 15 years that have been stolen from Gary. It is his whole life. Thousands of people in Israel can only be described as the walking dead. Who is going to help them?

This system was described as brutal and barbaric by United Nations Human Rights Council members when it was exposed there four years ago. It continues to be primitive and cruel, but the general view is that the narrative of Israel is far more important than the individuals who live there.

The time for silence is over. The right of Israel to exist does not entitle the state to treat its citizens like animals.

For verification of Gary’s story, please contact Marianne Azizi here.

[Editor’s note: Redress Information & Analysis will continue to report the truth whomever it concerns, in fulfilment of our mission of exposing injustice, disinformation and bigotry. We will support all victims of injustice, be they Palestinians facing Israel’s merciless occupation and oppression, Jewish and other victims of Israeli inhumanity, or people of all religions and none facing the primitive bigotry of Islamists.]

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