Al Jazeera World

Beyond the Walls

We follow Arabs released from Israeli jails as they attempt to adapt to their new lives on the outside.

Filmmaker: Ahmed Adnan al-Ramahi

“Nothing is harsher than imprisonment. It’s the cruelest form of torture.”

A former Palestinian prisoner

This film tells the story of Arab and Palestinian captives who were detained in Israeli jails and how they had to adapt to a new life after their release.

Upon release, the prisoners faced a number of difficulties adjusting to a new life of freedom, albeit within an occupied territory.

They explain their mixed feelings about the changes in society and the political landscape experienced upon being released from the day-to-day monotony of prison life.

Beyond the Walls contains beautifully-filmed interviews and novel graphics to provide a moving portrait of the interviewees and the emotions and feelings they are describing.

Anwar Yaseen


“Freedom is not something physical. It’s a philosophical idea.

You get used to a daily routine and you don’t appreciate it until you are forbidden from doing it. I never opened a door or even touched the handle of a door for 17 years. I didn’t walk on sand for a long time. People walk on sand and grass every day. But they never appreciate what this means. Not until they are forbidden from doing it.

People shake hands with others. We were deprived of these little details. This is the philosophical idea of freedom.”

Mahmoud Mishlawi


“Life in prison is free of hypocrisy …. We had nothing to lose. We were ready to face anything. Almost all of us were sentenced to life imprisonment.

I felt like a stranger in the ‘outside world’ for a long time …. I felt a new life was ahead of me. I felt like a stranger among my family and friends. It was distressing. I couldn’t sleep. I was in a constant state of anxiety.  

I was in better intellectual and social harmony with my fellow detainees.”

Tahseen al-Halabi



“It was a challenge. Living under the strict rules and brutal conditions imposed on us by the prison authorities.
We took up the challenge to cope with prison life.

When we were released we were keen to live. But life was different. We slept on a 2cm-wide mattress for 12 years. Now we have beds and blankets. We jumped on the bed like little kids.”

Tereza Halasa


“None of my family dares to touch me to wake me. I’d immediately hit them. They call out from far away. In jail, they used to hit the keys on the bars to wake us up.

Everything was different when we were released ….

Those who have been in prison should undergo medical tests and rehabilitation on leaving. Especially since many detainees were young. It’s not much to ask for. But we need someone to make us understand how the society has changed.”

Ahmed Abu Hedbah



“You’re locked in a room filled with 20 others. You see them day and night.

After five or 10 days you’ve said all there is to say. After that, you’re just repeating yourself.

You find yourself breaking down.”

Ahmed Abu al-Sukkar


“I don’t regret the 27 years I spent in jail. People respect me for it. I get treated well wherever I go – not only by old people, but also by the young; especially those whom we raised in jail.

I don’t regret those years. I only regret the present days.

We have the right to liberate Palestine. We don’t only want parts of the West Bank. We demand the land beyond the 1967 border. But unfortunately, even a third world war won’t remove those settlements. Let’s be honest.”

Saleh Abu Laban



“After 15 years of oppression and being addressed as a ‘saboteur’, in a moment I became a national hero. I became a human being.

When we go to a restaurant I refuse to sit at tables facing the wall. Sitting facing a wall reminds me of jail. It means humiliation and insecurity. I never again want to sit facing a wall.”


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