The Absent Son
One of our sons was absent from our seder table this year.
Raphael was in jail.
Raphael is the leader of the "Return To The (Temple) Mount" Movement (Chozrim LeHar).
The series of events began when Raphael, his wife and two children arrived at our home on Thursday evening to join us for the first day of Passover.
Awaiting Raphael, outside our house, were two patrol cars and a crowd of police officers, who served Raphael with a restraining order, forbidding Raphael to visit Jerusalem.
This was in order to prevent Raphael from going to the Old City on Friday (Passover Eve), where he might make attempts to bring a Passover Sacrifice.
Unperturbed by the restraining order, Raphael set out Friday morning to the Old City of Jerusalem.
He was met there by police officers, who arrested Raphael along with about 20 other young folks, for "disturbing the peace" and, in Raphael's case, breaking his restraining order.
Whereas the others were all promptly released, Raphael was detained. His case came before the court on Friday afternoon and the judge (from Umm El Fahm, I don't know if that was relevant) refused to release him for the festival.
So whereas Raphael's wife Aviya and their two children spent seder night with us, Raphael spent his seder night in a cell with one drug dealer, a chronic re-offending criminal (been doing time since he was 11, now 60) and a Christian (although I'm sure that wasn't his offence).
Raphael found it inspiring ("Orot!" - lights!). He was elected as the cell "rabbi" and led their seder (Hagada was provided by the prison services, along with plentiful matzo and maror etc).
We missed him at our table...
Today (Sunday), I was invited to attend his hearing at the Jerusalem Court.
The police were asking for Raphael to be incarcerated until the end of the legal proceedings - probably 8 months or so. This was no laughing matter.
Having said that, the mood was remarkably up-beat.
The judge asked what all the noise outside the court building was, and was informed it was from a solidarity protest for Raphael. The judge complemented Raphael on having such vociferous supporters.
There was an agreement between the prosecution and defence (attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir) that Raphael should be placed under house/yishuv arrest, until the end of Passover (a week).
Me, my wife Julie, and son Yonatan are designated as 24/7 custodians over Raphael. Raphael's (solely) permitted to go, with escort, anywhere in Ramat Beit Shemesh.
It took another couple of hours to complete the paperwork, and then Raphael was released.
There was a clutch of journalists waiting for Raphael, including Channel One, Arutz 7, Channel 10, Haaretz et al.
You can see one write up and video here (including interviews with Raphael, Aviya and me, and starring my granddaughter Cherut): http://www.inn.co.il/News/News.aspx/320816.
Raphael's now home and he seems quite sincere in promising not to go wondering off.