Lo Tirtzach: Do not murder.

Yesterday in synagogue we read the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:6-17.) Among them were the unequivocal words:

Lo Tirtzach.

Do not murder.

And yet twice in the hours before Shabbat, we learned about heinous acts by Israelis: one murder, and six attempted murders.

Worst was the murder of Ali Dawabsha, an 18 month old child who was burned to death in an arson attack on her home in the village of Duma in the West Bank. The house was tagged in Hebrew with the words “Revenge” and “Long live the messiah” and four people were seen fleeing towards the settlement of Ma’aleh Efraim. Ali’s family are in hospital now, grievously wounded in the fire set by a Molotov cocktail thrown through their window. They were asleep in their own home. Their baby has been burnt to death, murdered horribly.

The other murderous act was only better because it was unsuccessful. (Not any more, see update below.) Yishai Schlissel managed to stab six marchers in the Jerusalem Gay Pride parade before he was overpowered by onlookers and police. This was the second time Mr. Schlissel has attempted to murder participants in the parade. He was released from prison for his first attack only a month ago.

In both cases, the murderers used Jewish religious language to justify their behavior.

There is nothing that justifies this behavior; it is chillul Hashem, a desecration of the name of God. It is of course a violation of the commandment, “Do not murder.” Anyone who makes excuses for this behavior, for burning little children to death, for stabbing citizens in the street, participates in the chillul Hashem.

I have no words for the depth of my disgust at these actions.

It is not enough for the Israeli government to wring its hands and say that this is bad behavior. While its labeling of the attack in Duma as terrorism is accurate and laudable, too often the perpetrators of “price tagging” attacks and other attacks on Palestinians are left unsolved and the perpetrators go free. Too many will shrug and say, well, Schlissel is ultra-Orthodox, what can we do, beyond jailing him?

Israeli law enforcement needs to treat these terrorist attacks with the same rigor they treat terrorism by Palestinians or anyone else. Nothing less will do. “Price tagging” should always get more than a wink, even when no one is hurt. Security at that parade was too lax, if a known threat like Schlissel was able to penetrate it. Israeli security is famous, some would say infamous, but Jews need to begin demanding that it defend equally all lives, not just some.

Crime is crime, terror is terror, whoever is responsible.

What can an American Jew do in the face of such things? Ask tough questions about where your dollars go before you give them! Be clear with any Israel organizations you support that you are gravely concerned about lawless behavior by zealots. Support organizations that defend democratic ideals in Israel, for instance, the Israel Religious Action Center or Rabbis for Human Rights.

Update: Sunday morning, one of the stabbing victims died of her wounds. 16 year old Shira Banki died at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem. I am speechless, heartbroken. Baruch Dayan emet.

May the day come, and soon, when a news stories like these are completely unknown.

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at http://coffeeshoprabbi.com/ and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

11 thoughts on “Lo Tirtzach: Do not murder.”

  1. Good advice, Rabbi, thank you.
    Prayers for the loved ones of Shira Banki of Israel and each of the wounded and for the family of Ali Dawabsha. As well as for the families of the perpetrators 🙁

        1. Agreed. I am somewhat encouraged by the response of the Israeli public to both crimes; I hope that we have begun to understand that Zealots are not just a first-century problem.

  2. It’s so horrible. It’s the fundamentalist nut jobs that keep fueling this hatred. It’s disgusting, it’s dishonorable and doubly murderous because it will continue to provoke retaliation attacks.

    1. Those who incite them need to take responsibility for their words, which are so extreme that they inflame the unstable in their congregations. This is true in all places – we have a problem with it here in America, too. The pulpit is a huge responsibility, and preachers and teachers who use inflammatory language “for effect” assuming that “people will understand hyperbole” need to get it that saying stuff like “so and so should die” is not acceptable. If I preach and someone takes me literally, it is not sufficient for me to say, oh, I never meant for him to kill someone. We have to convince those with pulpits (whether clergy or politicians) that they need to be responsible for their words.

    2. We did not draw first blood. As terrible as it was that an innocent baby was killed, this was in retaliation for the murders of Jews. Whether we don’t agree with the concept, we are, in fact, at war. The persons who perpetrated this act are RESISTANCE fighters. When the Palestinians (Hamas, Hesbollah, ISIS, etc.) lay down their arms and stop trying to annihilate every Jew, these acts of retaliation will stop.

      1. “They started it” is an unacceptable excuse even on the playground. These so-called resistance fighters are hooligans who make matters worse, not better.

      2. This response is shameful. “They hit me first” is not a good enough excuse for hitting back. And the fact that you are trying to justify the murder of an innocent is disgusting.

        1. The fact that you think my response is shameful and disgusting is of no consequence to me. The reality is that without resistance fighters, Israel would not even exist. Of course, it is always terrible when innocents die. However, the Moshiach is not yet here and this is not a time of peace. When you put your head in the sand, trump up violent acts against our aggressors and deny that violence against Jews is equally as heinous, you are, in reality, making victims of us because the violence against us will not stop. We have to meet deadly force with deadly force. That is what war is about.

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