search

Palestinians adopt spoons as ‘symbol of resistance’ following prison break

But accounts differ as to whether the six escaped security prisoners actually used the utensil to dig their way to freedom

Arab-Israeli protesters lift spoons, reportedly the digging tool used by six Palestinian prisoners who escaped from Israel's Gilboa prison, as they demonstrate in the mostly Arab city of Umm al-Fahm in northern Israel, on September 10, 2021. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
Arab-Israeli protesters lift spoons, reportedly the digging tool used by six Palestinian prisoners who escaped from Israel's Gilboa prison, as they demonstrate in the mostly Arab city of Umm al-Fahm in northern Israel, on September 10, 2021. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

The humble spoon has taken its place alongside traditional flags and banners as a Palestinian resistance symbol, after six escaped security prisoners were said to have carried out one of Israel’s biggest jail breaks with the utensil.

When the six Palestinian security prisoners escaped through a tunnel on September 6 from the high security Gilboa Prison, social networks shared images of a tunnel at the foot of a sink, and a hole dug outside.

A hashtag, “the miraculous spoon,” suggested how the Hollywood-style feat might have occurred. But whether or not the utensil had really been involved or its role was cooked up, was at first unclear.

On Wednesday, a lawyer for one of the recaptured fugitives told AFP that his client, Mahmud Abdullah Ardah, said he had used spoons, plates and even the handle of a kettle to dig the tunnel from his cell. He began scraping his way out from the prison in December, the lawyer, Roslan Mahajana, said.

Other reports have said the six men used plates and sharpened pan handles to begin their digging, not spoons.

Ardah was one of four fugitives later arrested after a massive manhunt. All six were accused of plotting or carrying out terror attacks against Israelis. Four of them were serving life terms for murder or attempted murder in the cause of Islamic Jihad, which seeks Israel’s destruction, while another was a notorious Fatah commander.

Two men remain on the loose following the extremely rare escape. Israel has begun an inquiry into lapses that led to the embarrassing incident, which Palestinians hailed as a “victory.”

Palestinian protesters hold up spoons, reportedly the digging tool used by six Palestinian prisoners who recently escaped from Israel’s Gilboa prison, as they confront Israeli security forces, following a demonstration in the West Bank village of Beita, on September 10, 2021. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

“With determination, vigilance… and cunning, and with a spoon, it was possible to dig a tunnel through which the Palestinians escaped and the enemy was imprisoned,” writer Sari Orabi said on the Arabi 21 website.

Palestinian cartoonist Mohammed Sabaaneh says the escape has served up “black humor” and exposed Israel’s security system to ridicule. He has made several drawings featuring the utensil, including one titled “The Tunnel of Freedom.”

The issue has also stirred admiration elsewhere in the Arab world, where spoons have been carried in demonstrations supporting prisoners detained by Israel.

In Kuwait, the artist Maitham Abdal sculpted a giant hand firmly clasping a spoon — the “spoon of freedom,” as he calls it.

Similarly inspired, Amman-based graphic designer Raed al-Qatnani symbolically depicted six silhouettes taking a bridge to freedom, represented by a spoon. For him, it also evokes the numerous hunger strikes undertaken by Palestinian prisoners to protest their incarceration.

In this photo provided by Israel’s Prisons Service, a hole in a floor is seen after six Palestinian prisoners escaped from the Gilboa prison in northern Israel, on September 6, 2021. (Israeli Prisons Service via AP)

In Tulkarem in the West Bank, the escape brought back memories for Ghassan Mahdawi. He and another prisoner escaped from an Israeli prison in 1996 through a tunnel dug using not kitchen implements but nails. He had been arrested for belonging to an armed terrorist group during the first intifada, which lasted until the early 1990s.

“There’s nothing prisoners can’t do… and there is always a flaw” in the system, said Mahdawi, who was rearrested and then released after a total of 19 years in custody.

In his view, the most recent escapees may have used tools other than spoons, obtained inside the prison, to carry out what every prisoner dreams of but few accomplish.

“To escape from an Israeli prison is something each inmate thinks about,” Mahdawi said. To have done it with a spoon, he added, is something that “will go down in history.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

read more:
comments
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed