Former ministers Abraham Hirchson and Shlomo Benizri arrived at the Hermon and Maasiyahu prisons Tuesday, to begin servicing their prison sentences.
Ex-Finance Minister Hirchson was convicted of multiple counts of fraud and was sentenced to five years in jail, which he will serve at Hermon Prison.
Former Shas minister Benizri, also convicted of fraud, was sentenced to four years incarceration, which he will serve at Maasiyahu Prison.
- Hirchson sentenced to 5 years
Dozens of Shas activists and party members gathered outside Maasiyahu Prison ahead of Benizri's arrival in a show of support, including Shas Chairman Eli Yishai, Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Atias and Knesset members Avraham Michaeli, Meshulam Nahari, Yitzhak Vaknin, Amnon Cohen, David Azoulay.
"You can see the public's pain and frustration," an emotional Benizri told the press gathered outside the facility. "I'm trying to overcome my feelings, but someone has to hear the public's cry. These are not just the tears of the few standing here, but those of the thousands I've said goodbye to over the past few weeks. They are the ones who've been punished, not me."
Benizri arriving at Maasiyahu Prison (Photo: Avi Mualem)
Mass police presence was noted outside Maasiyahu, as demonstrators slammed the court's decision and the media.
"This is a difficult day, when a minister in Israel finds him behind bars just because his last name is Benizri. He is innocent," a protestor told Ynet.
"This should be a day of soul searching for the judicial system," said MK Azoulay. "You can't say justice was served here. This was an unprecedented persecution of an innocent man. The Supreme Court should do some soul searching."
Hirchson's arrival at the Hermon Prison was far less dramatic:The former minister arrived at the facility accompanied by two family members, and did not address the press.
Once inside the prison, he underwent the routine admission process.
Sad day for Knesset, dark day for politics
A source close to Hirchson told Ynet that "unlike another minister who is also going to jail, Hirchson handled himself with dignity. He did not want to turn his few last days as a free man, or his arrival at the prison, into a circus."
Hirchson at Hermon Prison (Photo: Hagai Aharon)
"This is a sad day for the Knesset and for Israel," said Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin.
"Nevertheless, if one was convicted in a court of law one must pay the price. This is a sad day for the Knesset, which is doing everything it can to redeem its public perception.
"Let's hope that this will not only deter others, but reinforce the public's understanding that ministers are held accountable and are not above the law."
Knesset Member Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi)added: "This must be the most difficult day in the former ministers' lives, just as it is one the Israeli politics' darkest days.
"This is a shameful stain. I hope this low point will allow us to create corruption-free politics which will restore the public's faith in the ministers and Knesset members."
Ahiya Raved contributed to this report