Avraham Yisrael, 74, says he only wanted a few shekels to enter movie theater for AC; police say he tried to pry open cash register to steal larger sum
A homeless man in Tel Aviv has been on trial for three years for allegedly attempting to steal NIS 4 ($1.2) from a vendor, according to a television report this week.
Avraham Yisrael, 74, was charged and convicted over the August 2017 attempted theft at the Dizengoff Center mall and is awaiting his sentencing.
Yisrael told Channel 12 he had sought to steal a few shekels in order to buy a NIS 10 ($3) movie ticket and escape the summer heat after failing to collect the full sum from passersby.
Police disputed the account, saying Yisrael had attempted to break open the cash register with a metal pole to steal the large sum of money inside. Other property suspected to have been stolen was found in his possession, according to police.
Yisrael told the network he would seek refuge in the theater every week.
“I would do it on Tuesdays, when there was a discounted ticket to the cinema. I did it first of all for the air conditioning, but also to be with people,” he said. “Once I collected and I didn’t manage to get NIS 10. There was a vegetable stand, and it had a cash register on it. So I tried to take NIS 4 and just then the vendor owner caught me and called security.”
Yisrael is in poor health and became homeless after suffering a stroke, according to the report, which said welfare authorities recently arranged public housing for him. He agreed to be interviewed by Channel 12 in the hopes that his estranged family members would see the program and renew ties.
The legal proceedings have dragged on for three years, with Yisrael required to attend multiple hearings.
“Let them throw me in prison, I don’t care anymore. At least I’ll somewhere to rest my head at night and what to eat,” he told the station.
A public defender overseeing the case called it “shameful.”
“Instead of wasting public funds on hours of legal discussions and public defenders, why not use the money to care for people in his situation? It’s unfathomable that a man at his age, who is ill, is dragged to court for nearly four years over something like this,” said Avishag Cohen.
Police, in a statement to Channel 12, said: “The attempt to portray the defendant as a victim… lacks any basis in reality. In this case, the accused tried to use a metal pole to break into a cash register containing a significant amount of money, and in addition, he was also charged with possessing property that is suspected of being stolen.
“In light of the defendant’s past and his repeated illegal behavior, at the end of his questioning, the prosecution decided to file an indictment. The court also found the defendant guilty, decided to convict him and only it has the right to decide on his sentence and appropriate punishment. Any attempt to influence the sentence through media coverage is inappropriate and twisted,” said police.
After the report was aired, a number of Israelis donated money to Yisrael and a special payments account set up for him racked up over NIS 13,000 (almost $4,000), the network said.
“Lots of people called me and told that my story touched their hearts, some even said they cried,” Yisrael said in response. “It really moved me, I couldn’t believe so many people enlisted to help. This money can save my life.”
THE TIMES OF ISRAEL