Holding Pattern

A Palestinian Teen Gets Sent to Detention—and Stays

Muhammed was eventually transferred from the temporary detention center to Ketziot prison, where most of the juvenile administrative detainees are currently held. Ketziot, like other military prisons in Israel, is a camp where people sleep in large tents. There are two showers and four toilets per 120 prisoners, according to DCI. It is located in Israel's hottest and least populated region, the Negev Desert. "We try to hold administrative detainees separately," says the military official. "They are not prisoners of war. They are subject to regulations specific to all prisons. Administrative detainees are given extra rights because of the nature of their detention—more visitation rights, more cigarettes." Visitation, for those detainees whose families are lucky enough to have Jerusalem identification enabling them to travel in Israel, takes place once a month for half an hour, according to DCI, and even then, families and prisoners have to yell over a concrete-and-wire fence.

But David Brinn, a music critic at the Jerusalem Post who worked at Ofer military prison for 12 years during his annual three-week military reserve duty, says, "I think the Israeli officials bend over backwards to be fair to prisoners. I never saw one case of abuse. The conditions are as if for a prisoner of war." He described teenagers' serving food and listening obediently to the prisoners' leaders, who would hold lectures on Palestinian militant ideology. "It seemed like a great breeding ground for terrorism, all those 16- and 17-year-olds with the military activists," he said.

It is hard not to see a cycle in motion here. Meanwhile, Muhammed's initial six-month term of detention was renewed in June. His family holds on to the hope that their son could be restored to them as suddenly as he was taken.

"When you came today," his mother, Samiya, told the Voice through an interpreter, "I thought there was a small chance you might bring him with you, as a surprise."

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