Israeli authorities commit woman to psychiatric unit after she protested outside Justice Minister Shaked’s office

Marianne Azizi writes:

Joelle Ben Simon, 55, has had her fair share of injustice. For almost 10 years she has been appealing against judgments from the religious and civil courts which resulted in her losing her villa and sleeping in a car with her son. Her case is a complicated one and has involved appeals against numerous judges and the rabbinical court.

Two weeks ago Joelle met with a lawyer who saw how convoluted her case was. It is common for people who have suffered great injustice to “live” their story. They know it better than anyone, and can select pages, dates and events from memory.

Joelle decided to protest. She went to the office of Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and decided to camp outside.

… shortly after her protest had finished, she went home and within hours had a knock at the door with an ambulance and two officials “inviting” her to go with them.

After a few days she was reported missing. Friends were worried about her and publicised their concerns on Facebook, asking if people knew where she was. Today they learned that she had been seized and taken to a mental institution in Eitanim, a remote location in the hills just outside Jerusalem. Together with an Israeli journalist and a lawyer, we went to find Joelle. We learned that shortly after her protest had finished, she went home and within hours had a knock at the door with an ambulance and two officials “inviting” her to go with them.

Joelle relates her story:

I went to the office of Aleyet Shaked and decided to do a one-woman protest. I camped quietly there for one night, and requested that she talk to me about my situation. They asked me to leave on the first night, but I didn’t, as it is my legal right to be there. I didn’t make any noise or disturbance.

The second night, a lawyer came out to talk to me, and said that they were willing to help if I left. So I agreed, and went home to my caravan in Qedar. I went to sleep that night at home and returned to Shaked’s office. The same lawyer came out and told me to file a complaint against the judges through the commission of complaints for judges. Within five hours a social worker turned up at my home with an ambulance and ordered me to go with them to this unit.

I have been here for a few days. I had been told if I didn’t go with them, they would force me. I agreed to go only on condition that I could speak with Ayelet Shaked’s personal assistant. I was told I “needed” a few days quiet in an institution. I told them my own home was quiet enough.

Joelle is in a closed unit. Through the window we could see people pacing up and down in the room in hospital gowns. We were shown into a room and Joelle was brought in to see us. She explained that she had been given medicine – a syrup. It made her feel dizzy and sick. She had not been diagnosed with anything. Her first words were they can take my body, but not my soul.

Ayelet Shaked

Joelle Ben Simon: “If anyone is homeless and needs somewhere to stay, call Ms Shaked and she will institutionalise you! Her number is 0524 233 659.”

Joelle gave out the phone number of Ayelet Shaked to anyone who wished to speak with her, about her own case or any others. She said:

If anyone is homeless and needs somewhere to stay, call Ms Shaked and she will institutionalise you! Her number is 0524 233 659.

I wanted to talk to her about the crimes committed against me in the family and rabbinical courts for over 10 years. I suddenly find myself taken by force to a psychiatric ward, given drugs against my will and without diagnosis, so if you need a warm bed and food, please feel free to call this number!

The good news is that the medication is paid for by the Ministry of Health who do a good job of filling beds. Thank you, Ayelet Shaked!

A number of videos were filmed. Her lawyer fought to have her released today, but was refused on the grounds that Joelle would be the subject of a committee meeting on Monday 8 August.

The story is spreading on social media, with people wondering if free speech is a dying activity in Israel.

Joelle has no history of mental illness. She has raised her son as a single mother for the past 10 years, and is a well known, respected and loved woman in her community.

Neighbours and friends find it inexplicable that after a protest she was forced into a mental hospital out of the blue, with no warning whatsoever. She will have plenty of character witnesses and support and is expected to be released thanks to the publicity generated on social media.

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