One sentence that Lama Khater heard during the period she was interrogated by the Shin Bet security service helped her hang on. “No interrogation lasts forever,” the Red Cross representative who first saw her about two weeks after her arrest told her.
As Khater said last month at her home in Hebron in the West Bank, “Even though at that moment I felt that the interrogation would go on forever, and time in the Shin Bet ward at the Ashkelon prison stood still, the sentence I heard became an anchor for me, a key to remembering that time doesn’t stop, and it wouldn’t stop there.”
Khater was arrested on July 24, 2018, and was immediately transferred for Shin Bet interrogation that lasted 35 days. The arrest didn’t come as a surprise. Her husband, Hazem al-Fakhouri, had been summoned by the Shin Bet – not for the first time – and asked about his wife, who writes articles highly critical of the Palestinian Authority and its security coordination with Israel, and in support of the right of resistance to the Israeli occupation.
But she didn’t expect such a long interrogation period in an attempt to extract information from her and an admission of civil (not military) activity in Hamas. She didn’t expect an interrogation that included sleep deprivation, being painfully cuffed for many hours each day, being put in a foul-smelling cell with a freezing air-conditioner, and then in an even more foul-smelling cell (No. 8) where the faucet provided only rusty brown water.
“I felt intestinal pain,” she says. “I complained about the water to Dov the interrogator. He told me, ‘The Red Cross checks the water and it’s fine. Just like in prisons in Arab countries.’”
Khater, 43, from the village of Ein Siniya near Ramallah, remembers the names of most of her interrogators: “Dov, Major Yehiya, who’s the head of the interrogation section, Haroun, Marcel, Russo, Rino, Binji, Johnny, who’s Yehiya’s deputy. And there’s Colonel Itzik, who came every Sunday. He spoke to me in very threatening language. And there was also General Herzl, who said he was in charge of all the interrogation centers in the West Bank. And there was also ‘Mirol’ or something like that. Maybe I didn’t totally catch the name.”