‘The freedom tunnel’: Israel prison break celebrated by Palestinians

Nur Ayoubi

Middle East Eye  /  September 6, 2021

Social media users compare the escape of six Palestinian prisoners via a tunnel to the cult classic film The Shawshank Redemption and American drama Prison Break.

Social media users swarmed to the news of six Palestinian prisoners who managed to escape from a high-security Israeli prison on Monday.

The six cellmates tunnelled out of Gilboa prison in northern Israel by opening a hole in their cell toilet floor to access passages formed during the prison’s construction, according to Arik Yaacov, Israel Prison Service’s (IPS) northern commander.

Israel’s intelligence agency, Shin Bet, reported that the men had coordinated with people outside the prison using a smuggled phone, fleeing via a tunnel to meet an escape car that was waiting for them.

Palestinians and supporters of the Palestinian struggle against Israeli occupation rejoiced at the news, with many hailing the escapees as “heroes.”

The hashtag #نفق_الحريه which translates to “the Freedom Tunnel” was used by those sharing the news of the escapees as well as images from Gaza where people gave out sweets in celebration. 

For many, the events of Monday evoked comparisons to the award-winning American drama series Prison Break in which a number of inmates are able to escape through a tunnel that is dug beneath the prison in which they are incarcerated. 

Others drew parallels between the Palestinian escapees and the cult classic film, The Shawshank Redemption

The protagonist of the film, Andy Dufresne (played by Tim Robbins), is sentenced to life in prison but after 19 years of imprisonment, guards find Dufresne’s cell empty. It is revealed that the inmate dug a tunnel using a rock hammer throughout his incarceration, using the tunnel to escape.   

‘The Gilboa Redemption’

Others took parallels between the film and the escape of the six Palestinian prisoners one step further. 

The faces of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Israel’s Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid can be seen to have been photo-shopped on to faces of characters in the film who are staring into the tunnel through which the prisoners escaped.

Israeli security forces have launched a search operation in northern Israel as well as the occupied West Bank in order to locate the escaped Palestinian prisoners. 

Nur Ayoubi is a social media producer and journalist for Middle East Eye