Palestinian teen sentenced to life in prison for murder of Dafna Meir, mother of 6


The Palestinian teenager who murdered Dafna Meir, a mother of six, in her West Bank home was sentenced to life in prison.

The teen, who was 16 at the time of the murder, was sentenced Wednesday by a West Bank military court that also ordered him to pay nearly $200,000 to the family in compensation. The court also recommended that authorities prevent an early release due to the unusually cruel nature of the crime.

He was arrested two days after the Jan. 17 murder in Otniel and confessed to the killing during an interrogation, the Shin Bet security service said at the time of his arrest. He was indicted in February and convicted in May of murder and illegal possession of a weapon.

Meir, 38, was stabbed to death at the entrance of her home while fighting off her attacker in what is believed to have been an attempt to save three of her children in the house. She was the mother of four children and foster mother of two young children. Her 17-year-old daughter was able to give security officials a description of the assailant, who fled after he was unable to remove the knife from Meir’s body.

The teen watched Palestinian television broadcasts that incited against Israel and said Israel was “killing young Palestinians” before he allegedly committed the crime, the Shin Bet said.

The teen returned home after the murder and spent the evening with his family watching a movie, according to the indictment.

Israeli soldier who shot Palestinian assailant could see charges downgraded from murder


A soldier caught on video shooting a prone Palestinian terrorist in the head could be charged with manslaughter rather than murder, the military prosecutor said at a hearing.

“We are trying to decide what he could be charged with, including manslaughter,” the prosecutor said at Tuesday’s hearing in Kastina, near Ashdod, where it had been moved from the Jaffa military court.

Hundreds of the soldier’s supporters demonstrated outside the court.

The hearing was held in order for the military prosecutor to request that the soldier be held in detention for an additional nine days, until the office can complete its investigation and file an indictment. The judge approved the request at the end of the hearing.

The soldier, whose name is subject to a gag order, was held on murder charges on Friday for shooting a Palestinian wounded after stabbing an Israeli soldier in Hebron.

On Tuesday, the prosecutor said the soldier shot the Palestinian stabber in the head though he was down on the ground and no longer a threat.

The soldier arrived at the scene several minutes after the terror attack and acted independently, the Israel Defense Forces found in an initial investigation.

An autopsy of the Palestinian assailant to show whether or not the shot was fatal could make a difference in the charges or prevent both murder and manslaughter charges from being levied in favor of negligent homicide or violating the rules of engagement.

On Monday evening, the Magen David Adom emergency medical service released the findings of its own investigation into how it handled the incident, which found that treatment for the downed Palestinian assailant was delayed because he was not declared as safe to be approached.

“The risk of an explosive device or other dangerous element had not been removed, due to the fact that the terrorist was supine on the ground with a jacket (on a hot day) and that no security officer in the field had dispelled the concern,” the organization said in a statement.

This is in direct contradiction to the IDF’s claim that the assailant had been checked and cleared of being in possession of explosives.

Argentine prosecutor: AMIA special prosecutor Alberto Nisman was murdered


Alberto Nisman was murdered, the attorney general for Argentina’s Criminal Appeals Court said — the first suggestion by the country’s judicial branch that the AMIA special prosecutor’s mysterious death may have been an assassination.

Ricardo Saenz in a letter to the judges on Thursday called for a federal investigation of the case involving Nisman, who was found shot dead in his Buenos Aires apartment on Jan. 18, 2015. There has been no official cause of death.

A federal magistrate “has the broadest jurisdiction to clarify which of all the assumptions” involving Nisman’s death is accurate, Saenz wrote.

The Criminal Appeals Court will hold a hearing on March 18 to decide what court should be given jurisdiction over the case. Murder cases are handled by the federal courts.

Nisman’s family has claimed he was murdered. His former wife, Sandra Arroyo Salgado, has called for a federal investigation,

Saenz again put the spotlight on Diego Lagomarsino, the IT engineer who worked with Nisman at the AMIA special unit and admitted to lending Nisman the gun that ended his life. The versions about the presence of the gun at Nisman’s apartment are “contradictory,” Saenz wrote.

In his opinion, Saenz also referred to the results of tests on the gun said to have killed Nisman as elements that negate the possibility that the special prosecutor committed suicide.

Nisman, who was Jewish, was found hours before he was to present evidence to Argentine lawmakers that President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner covered up Iran’s role in the 1994 attack on the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires that left 85 dead and hundreds wounded.

Jewish teens found guilty in murder of Palestinian teen who was burned to death


Two Jewish teens were found guilty of the murder of a Palestinian teen who was burned to death in the Jerusalem forest.

The verdict in the kidnapping and killing of Mohammad Abu Khdeir, 16, was handed down Monday morning in Jerusalem District Court.

The court also found that the third defendant, Yosef Haim Ben-David, 31, of the Adam settlement in the West Bank, carried out the crimes for which he was accused, but delayed issuing a verdict due to the last-minute submission of an insanity plea.

The teens have not been identified because they were minors at the time of the crime. They will be sentenced next month.

One of the teens was convicted of attempted aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault, attempted arson, murder and abduction for the sake of murder. The other was convicted of murder and abduction for the sake of murder.

According to the court, Ben-David committed murder, abduction for the sake of murder, attempted aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault and attempted arson. The court will further discuss his case on Dec. 20, according to reports.

Khdeir was beaten unconscious and then burned to death in the Jerusalem Forest on July 2, 2014, to avenge the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens the previous month, Ben-David told police at the time of his arrest.

The murdered teen’s family, residents of eastern Jerusalem, attended all the court sessions, including Monday’s.

His father, Hussein Abu Khdeir, called the decision to delay a verdict for Ben-David a “crime,” and “utterly meaningless,” according to reports. He accused the attorneys for Ben-David of “misleading the court.” He has called for life sentences in prison for all three of those involved in the murder of his son.

Attorneys for Ben-David submitted a psychiatric evaluation just days ago that calls into question whether he was responsible for his actions at the time of his crime. Ben-David has a history of mental illness and has been under medication for his condition, the original indictment said.

Gay pride parade stabber charged in court with murder, attempted murder


The haredi Orthodox man who stabbed six marchers at the Jerusalem gay pride parade, leaving a 16-year-old girl dead, was charged with murder.

Yishai Schlissel, 39, was charged Monday in Jerusalem District Court on one count of premeditated murder in the death of Shira Banki along with six counts of attempted murder and aggravated assault.

Schlissel refused to recognize the authority of the court during the arraignment and refused to stand during the proceedings.

“God, the creator of the world, did not give you authority to judge me, and so I am not interested in asking questions or responding to them,” he told the court, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Schlissel has eschewed legal counsel, saying the court does not recognize Jewish law, and has not cooperated with the investigation. The court ordered the public defender to continue to represent Schlissel during court proceedings, however.

Schlissel had been released from prison three weeks before this year’s parade after serving 10 years for a similar attack at the Jerusalem gay pride parade in 2005.

Gay pride parade stabber indicted for murder


The haredi Orthodox man who stabbed six marchers at the Jerusalem gay pride parade, leaving a 16-year-old girl dead, was charged with murder.

Yishai Schlissel, 39, was indicted Monday in Jerusalem District Court on one count of premeditated murder in the death of Shira Banki, six counts of attempted murder and aggravated assault.

Schlissel in a statement to the court said, “The pride parade must be canceled to elevate Shira Banki’s soul. If you care for her well-being, you must cease this blasphemy against God. The parades bring harsh decrees upon Israel.”

Schlissel has eschewed legal counsel, saying the court does not recognize Jewish law, and has not cooperated with the investigation.

The Jerusalem District Prosecutor’s Office asked that Schlissel remain in custody until the end of the legal proceedings against him. The court agreed to hold him over until Tuesday, when a hearing will be held on the request.

Schlissel had been released from prison three weeks before this year’s parade after serving 10 years for a similar attack at the Jerusalem gay pride parade in 2005.

According to the indictment, Schlissel was prevented from entering the parade at one entrance point by two police officers.

Prosecutors seek 2nd trial in Etan Patz case following mistrial


Prosecutors requested a second trial for the accused killer of 6-year-old Etan Patz after a mistrial was declared.

New York State Supreme Court Justice Maxwell Wiley declared the mistrial on Friday after twice ordering the jury to continue deliberating when it said it could not reach a verdict. The jury had deliberated for 18 days, since April 15.

The suspect, Pedro Hernandez, will remain in jail while awaiting the second trial.

“We are frustrated and very disappointed the jury has been unable to make a decision,” said Stanley Patz, Etan’s father. “The long ordeal is not over,”

Jury members said afterward that the vote was 11-1 in favor of convicting Hernandez, 54, a disabled factory worker who confessed in 2012 to killing Etan in 1979. The defense claimed that the confession was the result of Hernandez’s mental incapacities exacerbated by several hours of police questioning.

Etan, who was Jewish, went missing on May 25, 1979, in the SoHo area of New York City after walking to a bus stop by himself for the first time. He was among the first missing children to have his face pictured on a milk carton. His body and personal effects were never found.

Jose Ramos, 68, a convicted pedophile who served a 20-year prison sentence for molesting a young boy, was declared responsible for Etan’s death in a 2004 civil case.

Six Baltimore cops charged in death of Gray, one with murder


A Baltimore police officer was charged with murder and five others with lesser charges in the death of a black man who suffered a critical neck injury while riding inside a police van, the city's chief prosecutor said on Friday.

Freddie Gray, who died in hospital a week after his arrest on April 12, was in handcuffs and shackles but otherwise was not restrained inside the van, a violation of police department policy, prosecutor Marilyn Mosby said at a news conference.

The Maryland state medical examiner had ruled Gray's death a homicide, Mosby said. The officer charged with murder was the driver of the vehicle. She said the officers failed to give Gray the medical attention he asked for and that his arrest was unlawful.

The death of 25-year-old Gray has become the latest flashpoint in a national outcry over the treatment of African-Americans and other minority groups by U.S. law enforcement.

“To the people of Baltimore and the demonstrators across America, I heard your call for 'no justice, no peace.' Your peace is sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of this young man,” said Mosby, a 35-year-old African-American who took office in January.

The decision to bring charges and the speed at which Mosby made the announcement, a day after the police department handed over an internal report, seemed to catch Baltimore and the country by surprise.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said five of the six officers were under arrest.

The charges brought jubilation and relief to people on the streets of West Baltimore, the neighborhood where angry people looted, burned cars and clashed with police on Monday night.

“I am shocked that they were charged but I am happy they were charged,” said James Crump, 46, a medical technician. “People are happy and celebrating, and it's not even New Year's Eve.”

Baltimore endured a night of rioting after Gray's funeral on Monday, and protests spread to other major cities in a reprise of demonstrations set off by police killings last year of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri, New York and elsewhere.

After Mosby spoke, members of the gang Bloods, Crips and Black Guerrilla Family stood at the center of a Baltimore intersection holding up bandannas tied together to show unity. Gang members were part of a force of volunteer peace keepers after Monday's violence.

RANGE OF CHARGES

Charges against the six police officers range from second-degree “depraved heart” murder to manslaughter to assault and misconduct in office.

Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., the driver of the police vehicle, faces a maximum penalty of 30 years if convicted on the murder count. Other offenses carry prison terms of between three years to 10 years.

Goodson also faces a charge of involuntary manslaughter, as are three others: Sgt. Alicia D. White, Officer William G. Porter and Lt. Brian Rice. All six face lesser charges, including Officer Edward M. Nero and Officer Garrett E. Miller.

In Ferguson and New York last year, grand juries decided against charging officers who were involved in the deaths of two unarmed black men. The news triggered rioting in the St. Louis suburb and days of protest marches in New York and other cities.

President Barack Obama took the unusual step of commenting on charges in an open case, highlighting the importance that the issue of police conduct toward minority groups has assumed over the past year.

“It is absolutely vital that the truth comes out in what happened to Freddie Gray,” Obama said. “I think what the people in Baltimore want more than anything else is the truth. That's what people in our country expect.”

Mosby promptly rejected a call by the union representing the officers for the appointment of a special prosecutor.

In an open letter, the Fraternal Order of Police, Baltimore City Lodge No. 3, said Mosby had conflicts of interest because she is married to a city councilman with political aspirations and knows a Gray family lawyer. The union said the officers were only doing their jobs and were not responsible for Gray's death.

Representatives of Gray's family were not immediately available for comment.

MEDICAL EXAMINER RULES DEATH A HOMICIDE

Mosby said the fatal injury occurred after the van stopped to allow officers to remove Gray, shackle his legs and put him back inside, one of four stops between the arrest and the van's arrival at the a booking center. Officers failed to secure Gray in seat restraints at every stage of the ride, she said.

“Mr. Gray suffered a severe and critical neck injury as a result of being handcuffed, shackled by his feet and unrestrained inside of the BPD wagon,” said Mosby, whose family includes generations of law enforcement officers.

Gray was no longer breathing when he was finally removed from the van, Mosby said. She also said that Gray's arrest was illegal. Officers had said that he was carrying a switchblade knife in violation of the law, but the prosecutor said it was in fact a folding knife that was legal to carry.

Mosby said her office had been conducting a parallel investigation while awaiting the findings of the internal police probe.

Alleged Kansas City JCC shooter says he’ll change plea to guilty


Frazier Glenn Miller, the white supremacist charged with murdering three people outside two Kansas City-area Jewish institutions, said he will change his plea to guilty.

Miller, suffers from chronic emphysema, told The Associated Press by phone from jail that he wants to speak in court about why he committed the crimes and is concerned about a long trial due to his poor health. He said he plans to use his court appearances to “put the Jews on trial where they belong.”

In late March, Miller pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court in Johnson County, Kansas, and asked for a speedy trial, within 150 days, despite objections from his lawyers. Judge Thomas Kelly Ryan set an Aug. 17 trial date.

Miller is charged with committing three murders on April 13, 2014 — two in the parking lot of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in Overland Park, Kansas, and one in the parking lot at Village Shalom, a Jewish assisted-living facility a few blocks away.

In addition to capital murder, Miller is charged with three counts of attempted first-degree murder, one count of aggravated assault and one count of criminal discharge of a weapon at a structure.

State prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty.

Miller, a former Ku Klux Klan grand dragon, told the Kansas City Star that he began planning the attacks when he became so sick with emphysema that he thought he would die soon and that he conducted reconnaissance missions of the JCC and Village Shalom in the days before the shootings.

“I wanted to make damned sure I killed some Jews or attacked the Jews before I died,” he told the newspaper.

None of his victims were Jewish.

Former Patriots star Hernandez gets life in prison for 2013 killing


Former National Football League star Aaron Hernandez was sentenced to life in prison on Wednesday for murdering an acquaintance in an industrial park near his Massachusetts home, concluding the first of two murder trials he faces this year.

A Massachusetts jury found Hernandez, 25, guilty of first-degree murder in the June 2013 slaying of Odin Lloyd, who had been dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancée at the time. During the trial, the men were described as having been in the early stages of friendship, but Hernandez soured on Lloyd after the man hung out with people the former New England Patriots tight end disliked.

Massachusetts Superior Court Associate Justice Susan Garsh sentenced Hernandez to life in prison without the possibility of parole, the mandatory punishment for first-degree murder in the state.

Hernandez, who had stood to hear the verdict, collapsed into his chair after the verdict was read, and court security officers handcuffed him. His mother and fiancée, who were in court, broke into tears.

Members of Lloyd's family welcomed the verdict but said the pain of losing Lloyd would linger.

“I felt like I wanted to go into the hole with my son, Odin. I will never have a grandchild from my son, or grandchildren. I will never get to dance at his wedding,” said Lloyd's mother, Ursula Ward.

“He was the big brother that everybody would love to have. … These last couple of years have been the hardest time of our lives,” said Olivia Thibou, Lloyd's younger sister.

The Patriots cut Hernandez, a rising star with a $41 million contract, hours after his arrest on June 26, 2013, nine days after a teenage jogger found Lloyd's body.

The highly publicized case was another black eye for the NFL. The United States' most profitable sports league was already facing a lawsuit by former players who contend it ignored the concussion risks they faced on the gridiron and criticism for its handling of cases involving domestic violence by players.

During four months of testimony, the jury heard from more than 130 witnesses who testified that Hernandez, a native of Bristol, Connecticut, was a regular user of marijuana and sometimes of the stimulant PCP, that he owned guns and at times acted paranoid and that he said he felt his friends did not appreciate the things he did for them.

The witnesses included Alexander Bradley, a former friend of Hernandez who charged in a civil lawsuit that the former NFL player shot him in the face in February 2013, costing him an eye. Bradley, who never pursued criminal charges over the incident, testified that he saw Hernandez handle a gun similar to the one used to kill Lloyd but was not allowed to tell the jury about the shooting.

Investigators never recovered the .45-caliber Glock pistol that was used to pump six bullets into Lloyd, 27, who had been a semiprofessional football player.

Robert Kraft, the Patriots' billionaire owner, was also called to the stand. Kraft testified that Hernandez said he was innocent and claimed to have been at a nightclub at the time of the killing.

Prosecutors contended that two friends, Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz, were with Hernandez at the time of the killing. Those two men will be tried separately.

Defense lawyers closed their case by saying Hernandez had been present at the time of Lloyd's slaying, but had been a witness not a participant.

“He was a 23-year-old kid who witnessed … a shocking killing committed by somebody he knew,” said defense attorney James Sultan. “He really didn't know what to do. So he just put one foot in front of the other.”

Prosecutors countered that Hernandez had plotted and controlled every detail of the slaying.

“He believed he could kill Odin Lloyd and nobody would ever believe that he was involved,” said Assistant District Attorney William McCauley.

Hernandez was also found guilty of two firearms charges for illegally possessing the handgun used in the crime and illegally possessing .22-caliber ammunition found at his North Attleborough, Massachusetts, home.

Hernandez faces another trial beginning later this year in Boston, where he is charged with fatally shooting Cape Verdean nationals Daniel Abreu and Safirdo Furtado outside a nightclub after one of them spilled a drink. The jury that rendered the Lloyd verdict was not told about that case

K.C. march marks anniversary of deadly shootings at Jewish sites


Thousands marched in a Kansas City suburb to mark the first anniversary of deadly shootings outside two Jewish institutions.

The three-mile Peace Walk that began at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in Overland Park, Kansas, culminated seven days of events planned by the families of the victims promoting “faith, love and kindness” called SevenDays: Make a Ripple, Change the World.

Registration for the walk was cut off at 3,000 people, though many more wanted to participate. The walkers came from all segments of the city’s population, according to reports.

Rabbi Jonathan Rudnick gave a blessing at the start of the walk.

“They threw in their lot with the Jewish people, and we will always honor their memories,” he said.

William Lewis Corporon, a retired physician, and his 14-year-old grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood, were gunned down in the parking lot of the JCC, and Terri LaManno, a mother of two, was killed in the parking lot at Village Shalom, a Jewish assisted-living facility a few blocks away, where she was visiting her mother. None of the three victims were Jewish.

Frazier Glenn Miller, a former Ku Klux Klan grand dragon, will go on trial later this year for the murders. Miller has pleaded not guilty to charges of capital murder and other counts. State prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Miller, who is chronically ill with emphysema and believed he was about to die when he perpetrated the attacks, told the Kansas City Star in an interview, “I wanted to make damned sure I killed some Jews or attacked the Jews before I died.”

Suspect arrested in Berlin murder of Israeli man


An Albanian man was arrested in connection with the murder of an Israeli in Berlin.

The suspect was taken into custody late Friday in the Czech Republic near the German border. Germany will seek to extradite him, The Associated Press reported.

The victim, who was identified as Yossi Damari days after his body was found on April 5 amid the rubble of construction being done at a church, reportedly checked into a hostel the day before he was murdered.

Damari, 22, reportedly had visited Israel’s embassy in Berlin in the days prior to his murder requesting financial help in order to return to Israel. He also reportedly had asked the Jewish community for food and a place to sleep.

The Chabad rabbi in Berlin, Yehuda Teichtal, told the NRG news website that Damari was supposed to have attended a seder at the local Chabad house but never showed up.

Damari’s body, discovered with his passport, was so badly beaten that it was difficult to make a positive identification.

Berlin Prosecutor Martin Steltner told the German media that neither robbery nor nationalism appear to be motives in the killing.

Arizona judge sentences murderer Jodi Arias to life without parole


An Arizona judge sentenced former waitress Jodi Arias to life in prison with no possibility of parole on Monday for murdering her ex-boyfriend in 2008.

Arias, 34, escaped a possible death sentence last month after a lone juror at her sentencing retrial refused to back the death penalty throughout days of deliberations.

Trial begins for Jewishly active N.Y. doctor accused of murdering wife


The jury has been seated in the trial of a Syracuse, N.Y., physician accused of murdering his wife.

By midday Tuesday, the 12 jurors had been picked in the case of Dr. Robert Neulander, 63, who has been charged with second-degree murder and tampering with physical evidence. His wife, Leslie, was found dead in the shower of the family’s home in 2012, but the death initially was ruled an accident.

Opening arguments were slated to begin on Tuesday afternoon.

Neulander, who was released on $100,000 cash bail following his indictment in June, has denied the charges.

Both Neulanders were active in the local Jewish community.

The trial in Onondoga County Court is expected to draw a large number of spectators, so court officials opened a second courtroom where viewers can watch a closed-circuit video feed of the proceedings, The Associated Press reported.

In questioning potential jurors, defense lawyer Edward Menkin emphasized that Neulander had no motive to kill his wife. Jurors were also questioned about their ability to view graphic photos, presumably of the victim, and whether such images might affect their neutrality.

The Neulanders chaired the Jewish Federation of Central New York’s annual campaign in 2012. Leslie chaired fundraising events at the Syracuse Hebrew Day School in DeWitt and Robert played a key role in the expansion of the local Jewish community center.

Their four children attended the Syracuse Hebrew Day School.

Argentine investigator to review evidence suggesting Nisman was murdered


The justice official probing the death of Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman said she would review new findings suggesting that he was murdered.

Prosecutor Viviana Fein announced the review in speaking to journalists on Friday about the death of Nisman, who on Jan. 18 was found dead at his home hours before he was scheduled to deliver a testimony on Iran’s alleged involvement in a deadly 1994 terrorist attack on Argentine Jews.

Nisman was about to accuse Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of covering up for former Iranian officials accused of being involved in the AMIA Jewish community center bombing that claimed the lives of 85 people, sources close to Nisman said.

Nisman was found in his bathroom with a weapon and a fatal wound to his head. His ex-wife, federal judge Sandra Arroyo Salgado, said on Thursday that he was murdered, citing an independent forensic report that she said proved this. Fein, however, said she could neither confirm nor discount the claims at this stage.

Still, Fein said on Friday that she would convene the authors of the independent forensic report to examine their evidence.

“I cannot determine for the moment whether it was a suicide or a homicide. Arroyo Salgado is not an expert and neither am I,” Fein said.

Nisman, who was Jewish, was the investigating prosecutor assigned to the bombing, and he accused Iran of masterminding the attack. He was a staunch critic of Fernandez de Kirchner’s controversial decision last year to re-investigate the attack along with Iranian officials.

The review next week, Fein added, would also be to “discuss the differences” between her own team’s findings and those of the independent team assembled by Arroyo Salgado.

Waldo Wolff , the vice president of the Jewish political umbrella in Argentina, DAIA, said that if the case is revealed to be a murder, there could be “unpredictable consequences for the country.”

On Friday, the New York Times printed a full-page ad by Argentina’s government, in which it seeks to explain the decision to dismiss Nisman’s accusations against top Argentine officials, including the president.

“The importance of informing about this decision lies in the institutional and political seriousness of the accusation, which charged the highest authorities of the Argentine Republic with hindering the investigation of the 1994 bombings against the building of the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA),” the ad says.
 
The ad says there is no document, testimony or phone taps to support Nisman’s accusations that Kirchner and others in the government, including Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, sought to cancel the international arrest warrants (known as “red notices”) for Iranian officials accused of involvement in the AMIA bombing.
 
The ad shows the pressure Argentina’s government has faced since Nisman was found dead in his apartment the day before he was scheduled to testify before Argentina’s Congress about Argentine officials hindering the investigation of the bombing.

Synagogue Slaughter Aforethought


Last Tuesday morning: five Jewish men head to synagogue in Har Nof—to pray for peace. Same morning: two Palestinians head to same synagogue—to murder them. It has been only one week since the tragic day. In fewer than 48 hours, supporters of the Har Nof community rallied online and raised over $65,000 for the families who lost loved ones in the attack. Personally, this day still haunts my thoughts and perceptions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

To me, it represents an blatant indication that the recent Israeli-Palestinian conflict has long-surpassed politics. This is not about being soldiers or occupiers. This is about the mere existence of the Jewish people and our prayers for a peaceful coexistance. According to the Times of Israel, “Yaakov Amos had just finished calling silently on God to grant peace everywhere, goodness and blessing; grace, loving kindness and mercy.” These peaceful prayers were met with a blood bath when the Palestinians entered the synagogue with a pistol, knives, and axes, shooting and stabbing the worshipers. Amos witnessed the terrorists shooting the victims, clad in prayer shawls, at point blank range into their heads. Among those killed were one British and three American citizens as well as a Druze Israeli.

As the State of Israel mourned the five dead and others wounded, Hamas called for additional “revenge” attacks, claiming on Al-Aksa TV that the attack was “a reaction to the crimes of the occupation.” Less than two weeks prior, a Palestinian Authority official, Mahmoud Habbash, also called for Jihad against every Israeli as a civil duty for “any Muslim from America to Japan.” On the day of this synagogue rampage, PA's Facebook page extolled the murderers for their “blessed operation.”

A good friend of mine who used to live a couple doors down from this attack wrote me an email last week, lamenting, “The terrorism is painful, heartbreaking, and frightening. But the truth is, there is something far more painful, heartbreaking, and frightening out there than these senseless acts of murder. That thing is not floating about here in Israel, but where you are, out in the rest of the world. While our people are fighting for their lives and desperately trying to protect their people, the rest of the world looks down on us and blames us for this war. There is far too much hate and ignorance thrown at us, and all we are doing is trying to save our own lives. We are being bombed, run over by vans like bowling pins, and murdered in cold blood. Age makes no difference to them, they've taken our children and even recently a small infant. And what is our crime? Do we not do what any other sensible person or nation would do? Stand up to those who are harming us. […] The world around us skews the media and this is more terrifying than any of this terrorism I am living with.”

The headlines? CNN reported “4 Israelis, 2 Palestinians killed in attack in Jerusalem synagogue;” “Deadly attack on Jerusalem Mosque;” and “Police shot, killed 2 Palestinians.” Al Jazeera reported “clashes after attack on Jerusalem synagogue.” On the day of the attack, the Emory (University) Wheel posted an article by Anusha Ravi and Ben Crais arguing that many fewer Israelis have died in this summer's conflict compared to Palestinians, insinuating that this smaller number affirms Israeli immorality. Clearly, for Ravi and Crais, the murder of more Jews in the name of the conflict merely evens the score. Their article makes no mention of the attack that occurred that very day. Also omitted is any reference to the Palestinians’ documented use of human shields to raise their death toll, exploiting the IDF’s morality to malign Israel. They make no attempt to dispel the inference that terrorist slaughter of innocent civilians is morally equivalent to self-defense. And neither does the mainstream media. 

Every such incident breaks our collective Jewish heart. Yet there still exists some hope that it may be THIS attack, THIS innocent life that was taken so that the world will finally wake up and realize that this is not a political fight. This was not an attack on an IDF soldier. This was not even an attack on a resident of a settlement. This was an attack on holy men who were praying for peace. The men killed were never in the army. The never killed a Palestinian. They were simply Jewish individuals practicing their Judaism in the Jewish State. And to Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organizations, that was their crime, punishable by death in the name of Jihad.

While the fundraising campaign for the mourning families is over and the pro-Israel community has refocused its energy on Iran, let us never forget last week’s attack.

Cartoon: I’m so proud of my son


Thousands mourn U.S.-Israeli rabbi killed in Jerusalem


Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews swayed in prayer at the funeral of U.S.-Israeli rabbi Moshe Twersky, a descendant of two rabbinical dynasties who was killed on Tuesday alongside three other rabbis in a Palestinian attack on a synagogue.

[Related: Born in Kansas City, transformed in L.A., murdered in Jerusalem]

Family, friends and admirers of Twersky, whose father was a pre-eminent Jewish scholar, expressed disbelief as they addressed the crowd of mourners through loudspeakers at a seminary in West Jerusalem were the funeral was held.

“We are so shocked. He was one of the world's most amazing people,” said Esther Greenwald, a friend of Twersky's widow, Miriam, who was immersed in prayer for much of the service.

Two Palestinian men armed with meat cleavers and a gun entered the synagogue in a quiet ultra-Orthodox neighborhood during morning prayers and attacked around 25 worshippers, killing four and wounding eight, several seriously.

The assailants, from predominantly Palestinian East Jerusalem, were shot dead by police.

The attack was the latest in weeks of escalating violence in Jerusalem that has raised fears of a religious conflict.

At the funeral, two of Twersky's young granddaughters wiped away tears, bowing their heads as they stood next to his widow.

Twersky, 59, had five children. He immigrated to Israel in 1990 from Boston, where his late father, Isadore, was a founding director of a Jewish studies center at Harvard University and a renowned scholar.

He was also a grandson of Joseph Soloveitchik, a renowned Boston rabbi who died in 1993.

Followers described Twersky as a rare rabbi in that he managed to bridge two worlds, being a descendant of a Hasidic dynasty that traces its roots to 18th century Ukraine while being an heir to a modern Orthodox Jewish leader in the United States, an advocate of a different form of Judaism.

“It's an unbelievable loss for us,” said a student at one of two religious seminaries where Twersky played a leading role.

Meshulam Twersky, the rabbi's eldest son, hailed him as someone “you could always pour your heart out to”, adding that his only solace was that his father had died in prayer.

A separate funeral service was held for the other victims — Avraham Goldberg, 68, a British-Israeli who immigrated from London in 1993, Kalman Levine, 55, who was born in the United States and Aryeh Kupinsky, 43, who also U.S.-born.

President Barack Obama condemned the synagogue attack and urged all Israelis and Palestinians to work to lower tensions after weeks of violence. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation said it would help Israeli authorities investigate the attack as three of the victims held U.S. nationality.

Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Crispian Balmer

Murder of Arab Silwan resident may be related to sale of building to Jews


An Arab resident of Silwan in eastern Jerusalem was stabbed to death in what could be retaliation for selling an apartment building to Jews.

Other reports say the early Friday morning murder by a family member was the result of a family feud.

Neighbors who witnessed the fight told police that the argument was over the sale of the homes to a Jewish group, according to the Jerusalem Post, though police said the murder was part of a family dispute.

Some Silwan residents have questioned the legality of the purchase, saying the buildings belong to three established Arab families in the neighborhood, the Times of Israel reported.

On Sept. 30, several families moved into the apartments in eastern Jerusalem, causing rioting in the neighborhood.

The apartments were vacant when the Jewish families moved into them.

“There is absolutely no connection between the parties involved in the killing in Silwan overnight Thursday and any real estate transactions between Jews and Arabs in the vicinity,” Ze’ev Orenstein, director of International Affairs for Elad Foundation, told JTA. “The events took place in the context of a local clan dispute. This is nothing more than an effort to enflame tensions between local Arabs and Jews.”

About 50 families live in Silwan, known to Jews as Shiloach, located next to the City of David and across from the Western Wall.

 

Philadelphia cantor’s former house guest charged in his murder


A former house guest was charged in the fatal stabbing of Ronald Fischman, an ordained cantor, in Fischman’s Philadelphia home.

Jonathan Williams, 33, was arrested Thursday — two days after the stabbing — and charged with murder, burglary and other offenses, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Williams had been a house guest at Fischman’s northwest Philadelphia home but had been asked to leave, according to police reports obtained by the Inquirer. He broke into the house after 11 p.m. on Sept. 30, according to police, and was confronted inside by Fischman, then stabbed him multiple times in the neck, shoulder and knee.

Fischman, 54, a Pittsburgh native, was an author and editor at GGIS Publishing & Media in Philadelphia. He had published two original books and ghostwritten eight biographies and memoirs, according to his website.

A graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary’s H. L. Miller Cantorial School in New York, Fischman had served as the cantor at Temple Beth Sholom, a Conservative synagogue on Long Island.

He was a member of the Mishkan Shalom synagogue in northwest Philadelphia, where he had blown the shofar and read from the Torah at Rosh Hashanah services this year, Rabbi Shawn Zevit told the Inquirer.

“It is a terrible loss,” Zevit told NewsWorks Philadelphia. “There is a lot of shock and grief. He was a very beloved member of our community.”

Trial begins for main suspect in revenge murder of Palestinian teen


The trial began for the main suspect in the kidnap and revenge murder of Palestinian teen Muhammad Abu Khdeir.

Yosef Haim Ben-David reportedly announced in Jerusalem District Court on Sunday that he is “the messiah.”

Ben-David, 29, of the Adam settlement near Jerusalem is expected to enter an insanity. He owns an eyewear store in Jerusalem.

Attorney Aharon Roza asked that Ben-David be examined by an outside psychiatrist to determine his fitness for trial, the Times of Israel reported.

Ben-David is accused of beating 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir unconscious and then burning him to death. He and two other suspects, both 16-year-old males — from Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh — told investigators that the slaying was in revenge for the kidnapping and murder last month of three Israeli teens.

The suspects have admitted to the murder and reenacted it for police.

Ben-David, who was committed to a mental hospital in recent months after allegedly attempting to murder his infant daughter, also is charged with attempting to kidnap a 7-year-old boy from eastern Jerusalem a day before the murder of Khdeir.

Khdeir was kidnapped from his eastern Jerusalem neighborhood early on the morning of July 2 and murdered hours later, less than a day after the funerals of Israeli teens Gilad Shaar, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach.

 

Dan Markel, legal scholar, dies at 41


Legal scholar and Florida State University College of Law professor Dan Markel died on July 19, after being fatally shot in his Florida home on July 18. Much has been said of his prominence in the legal community, which was on its way to legend. But too little has been said about my friend Danny, the man himself.

Danny was abrasive. There is hardly a friend of his (or colleague, I imagine) who can’t remember a time when Danny pushed them past the point of comfort. He used to show up in Los Angeles (where he lived for a number of years, frequenting IKAR and B’nai David-Judea) and invite himself to a Shabbat meal at my home. He’d turn up empty-handed, having just come from some legal conference or another, with an insufficiently sheepish grin and a presumptuously sprawling hug. 

This habit of his — of imposing himself on people and the world — showed itself in his legal scholarship, which was daring (he once argued for the irrationality of anti-incest laws, for example). But I remember it also as a feature of Danny’s personality, and it was one of my favorite things about him. 

For all his intellectual sophistication, Danny was a simple man (the best so often are). He seemed to proceed this way: He was a Jew; the Sabbath was upon us; therefore, he had good claim to a seat at my Sabbath table. Danny was right, of course, and he had extended me the same courtesy, back in 2005, when I was fresh out of law school and single, in need of a seat myself. 

Danny imposed himself again and again on my husband, Zach, and me first by setting us up, and then by pressing Zach to take a flight from L.A. to D.C. just to meet me. He even told Zach where to take me for dinner. The idea of a bicoastal setup was outlandish, but then, so was Danny. Though I like to think Danny respected my intellect, when he goaded Zach into meeting me, Danny focused almost entirely on my physical attributes. This irritated me (later, when I learned of it), except that it did the trick. Danny knew what he was doing.

In the near-decade of our friendship, Danny was always unalterably himself. He spoke his mind freely, never tempering his views to suit his audience. This ruffled flocks of feathers but also won him as many admirers. I remember one meal he showed up to at my home, back in 2009, when things were going very well for him but not for me. Zach and I were struggling with infertility, and Danny was unhesitatingly forthright about his prodigious familial success, his second son on the way. Those boys were everything to him, and Danny saw no reason not to celebrate every second of their existence, whatever the company.

Although he considered himself a progressive, the truth is that Danny was a throwback. A Jew who so thoroughly loved being Jewish — doing Jewish things — that his spirit lifted those around him. He didn’t believe in klal Yisra’el so much as live it. Other Jews weren’t co-religionists; we were his brothers and sisters. He would insist on borrowing your favorite sweater, but he’d also coach your career, check up on your progress, press you to be your best self. You never doubted his love.

Which, in the end, is why it’s nearly impossible to imagine life without him — that a heart so full of love could be made to stop. He had so many hopes and plans for his two little boys, Ben and Lincoln, whom he worried over with febrile intensity and loved that way too.

There’s a Jewish saying that one who arranges three shidduchim — matches that end in marriage — earns a place in the world to come. Danny like to brag that setting up Zach and me, plus another couple he knew, had nearly guaranteed his spot. He had only one match left to go. 

I like to think Danny got his spot anyway. It’s hard to imagine anyone refusing Danny — or that the Almighty could be so chary with a mensch who gave so extravagantly of himself. Zach and I owe him everything. If only he were still here to remind us.


Abigail Shrier (@abigailshrier) is a writer and graduate of Yale Law School living in Los Angeles.

Kidnapped Israelis shot 10 times with silenced gun, U.S. lab says


Three Israeli teenagers who were abducted by Palestinians in the West Bank last month were shot at least 10 times with a silenced gun in what appeared to be premeditated killings, a U.S. official involved in the investigation said.

The disclosure clashed with speculation by some Israeli and Palestinian commentators that the captors intended to take hostages for a prisoner exchange but panicked and shot them.

The killing of the three Jewish seminary students followed the collapse of U.S.-brokered peace talks in April.

One of them, 16-year-old Naftali Frenkel, also held American citizenship.

Israeli police believe the killings led far-right Jews to kidnap and burn to death a Palestinian youth in revenge, and the incident also contributed to an eruption of three weeks of clashes between Hamas fighters in the Gaza Strip and the Israeli military.

Missing since hitch-hiking home on June 12, their bodies were discovered on June 30. Israel blamed Hamas for their deaths but the Palestinian Islamist group has neither confirmed nor denied the allegation.

One of the three Israelis, Gilad Shaar, 16, telephoned police and said “They've kidnapped me!” after he, Frenkel and 19-year-old Eyal Yifrach got into a car which investigators suspect was driven by a Hamas militant posing as a religious Jew. A second disguised gunman sat in the front passenger seat.

A U.S. official involved in the probe said the FBI, whose mandate includes Americans abducted abroad, received a recording of the distress call from Israel within days and sent it for audio analysis in the United States.

Distorted, tinny reports heard on the tape after an Arabic-accented male voice shouts “Head down!” in response to Shaar's attempt to raise the alarm were found to be consistent with shots from a silenced firearm, the U.S. official said.

“There were 10 gunshots,” added the official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The use of a silencer led U.S. investigators to believe the captors planned to kill the three teenagers from the outset, the U.S. official said.

Israeli officials declined to respond to the American account of the investigation, saying it was still ongoing.

“We haven't even caught the kidnappers yet, so we're not going public with anything more now,” said an official with the Shin Bet security service, which is in charge of the case.

Writing by Dan Williams, Editing by Jeffrey Heller

When Jews murder


With the announcement that six Jews were arrested in the murder of Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old Palestinian, it is difficult to describe the sense of despondence that I (and I presume nearly all Jews) feel. Most Jews have a sense that certain things are truly foreign to our people. Unfortunately, few Jews are surprised upon learning that a Jew has been charged with a white-collar crime. But when it comes to murder — and not just murder, but murder of an innocent teenager, and not just murder of an innocent teenager, but, according to early reports I pray are incorrect, murder of an innocent teenager by burning him alive — the Jewish mind enters a sort of shock.

Maybe it shouldn’t. Maybe the notion that Jews are unlikely to produce such vile human beings is chauvinistic. But I don’t think it’s chauvinism. Certainly, it isn’t chauvinism on my part. I have long lived with disappointment in many Jews — for being so disproportionately involved in radical movements over the last hundred years and for being at the forefront of movements meant to fundamentally transform America, despite it being the best country humans have ever made, let alone the best country in which Jews have ever lived.

However, for Jews, especially Jews who strongly identify as such, to torture and murder a young boy because he was innocent, young and Arab — that’s an attention-getter.

I have always believed that, regarding Israel, the one responsibility of the non-Israeli Jew is to defend Israel. It is, after all, the only country in the world threatened with annihilation. It is both easy and irresponsible to criticize Israel while living in Los Angeles or New York. American Jews who wish to criticize Israel to the outside world should think many times before speaking out or they should make aliyah

I will, however, transgress this lifelong commitment to silence and ask Israelis to do two things:

First, Israelis must examine their society to determine if these Jewish murderers are individual aberrations or represent some dark underside of Israeli life. It is critical for the soul of Israel and the Jewish people to find out. 

Second, it is vital that leaders on the Israeli political and religious right speak out to ensure every right-wing and religious Israeli understands that to commit such an atrocity is to violate everything that Israel and Judaism stand for, as well as to erode one of the two greatest weapons Israel has: its moral high ground. (The other weapon is its military. No matter how close to morally perfect Israel could ever be, without military strength it would die.)

Now, having said all this, it is vital to note that the second request is being fulfilled.

Profound outrage, anguish, embarrassment and condemnation have already been expressed by Israelis across the political and religious spectrum.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has labeled the Jewish murderers “terrorists.” That is huge. No term is more morally damning in contemporary Israeli life.

Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, one of Israel’s foremost Orthodox rabbis, head of the Elon Moreh yeshiva, said that the murderers of Muhammed Abu Khdeir should be given the death penalty. “Unfortunately, it appears that Jews were involved in this matter,” Levanon said to his students. “Jewish law has no mercy for the perpetrators of crimes like murder, whether of Arab or Jew, whether by Arab or Jew.”

Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau announced that only God could avenge the murder of the three Israeli teens, Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Frenkel and Gilad Shaar. “Individuals do not have the right to take revenge for the death of the innocent. Revenge is not a license given to the hot-blooded for ‘action.’ Revenge is a strong, destructive weapon, and if there is such a concept in the world, it does not belong to humans.”

Even the family of Frenkel, one of the murdered Israeli boys, delivered a damning message. “If a young Arab man was murdered for nationalistic reasons, then it is a horrifying and disgusting act.”

Contrast the national revulsion among Israeli Jews to Palestinians’ reactions to the murder of the Jewish boys. As reported by Haaretz, Israel’s most prestigious newspaper and the one most antagonistic to the Netanyahu government and to Israel’s right wing:

Haaretz headline July 2, 2014: “Palestinians react with indifference to murder of teens.”

Among Palestinians, murderers of Jewish children have town squares named in their honor and are considered among the greatest of Muslims. The mother of 33-year-old Amer Abu Aysha, one of the two Palestinian suspects, told the media that if it turns out her son murdered the Jewish boys, “I’ll be proud of him till my final day.”

The moral difference between Israel and its enemies is wider than the Grand Canyon. This point — the most important and, one would think, most obvious lesson to come out of the present crisis — is completely lost on The New York Times, which published an editorial this week asserting a moral equivalence between the two societies — “an atmosphere in which each side dehumanizes the other.”

That many American Jews agree with that moral equivalence is another reason for at least one Jew’s sadness. 

Netanyahu speaks with slain Palestinian teen’s father; three suspects confess


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the father of the Palestinian teen allegedly murdered by Jews in a revenge attack.

Three of the six suspects arrested in the July 2 kidnapping and murder of 16-year-old Mohammad Khdeir of eastern Jerusalem to avenge the slaying of three Israeli teens have confessed to the crime and reenacted burning and dumping the body in the Jerusalem forest, Israeli media reported Monday.

“I would like to express my outrage and that of the citizens of Israel over the reprehensible murder of your son,” Netanyahu said in the Monday morning phone call to Hussein Abu Khdeir, the father of Mohammad, according to a statement from his office. “We acted immediately to apprehend the murderers. We will bring them to trial and they will be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law.

“We denounce all brutal behavior; the murder of your son is abhorrent and cannot be countenanced by any human being.”

The suspects, reportedly from Jerusalem and the surrounding area, have not been allowed to see their lawyers because they are being charged under the law for suspected terrorists, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni explained in an interview with Army Radio. The suspects will remain in police custody for eight days, according to reports.

There is a judicial gag order on the case.

Police reportedly have connected the Khdeir case to the attempted kidnapping of a 9-year-old boy by Jewish extremists in the same Shuafat neighborhood a day earlier. No one in the boy’s family filed a report with police and the case was not followed up.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, Yishai Fraenkel, the uncle of Naftali Fraenkel, one of the three Israeli teens who was kidnapped and murdered allegedly by Hamas terrorists, spoke by phone with Hussein Abu Khdeir in a conversation in which the men comforted each other.

Palestinians from the Hebron area also paid a condolence visit to the Fraenkel household on the same day.

Wolpe on the murder of teens: Don’t say ‘BUT’


Please, please don’t say ‘but.’  The words after ‘but’ invalidate everything that comes before – 
“He’s a nice person, but he does steal from the company.”  You see?  “But” is a meaning duster, sweeping all that precedes it.

So everyone who has written condemning the murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, and then goes on to say “but of course” Palestinian society does not condemn their own murders, or Israel is raising up in anguish, or anything else, is missing the point.  The point is to be ashamed and to grieve, not to use this murder to prove we are nonetheless better, or they are nonetheless guiltier. 

When we beat our chests on Yom Kippur, we do not say before God, “But the man in the seat next to me is far worse.” That is not contrition; it is self-justification disguised as repentance.  At a time of national self soul-searching it is too facile and false to use a Jewish crime as a stick to beat our enemies.  Jews did this.  Blind hatred did this. We should look inside, and be ashamed.


David Wolpe is the rabbi of Sinai Temple. You can follow his teachings at facebook.com/RabbiWolpe.

Home of Palestinian murder suspect can be razed, Israeli court rules


The army can raze the home of a Palestinian indicted in the Passover eve murder of a senior police officer, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled.

The family of Ziad Awad on Tuesday morning was given 12 hours to remove its possessions from the West Bank residence in Idhna Village, near Hebron, before the demolition order takes effect. Awad has been charged in the April 14 murder of Police Chief Superintendent Baruch Mizrachi.

The apartment at the top of the building, where Awad resided, is set to be demolished, but two other apartments and storage areas owned by Awad’s brother will remain intact, according to the court order.

Awad allegedly fired at civilian vehicles traveling near Hebron, killing Mizrachi, critically injuring his wife and wounding a child traveling in a second car. The shooter fled the scene.

Awad and his son, Izz Eddin Hassan Ziad Awad, 18, were arrested last month.

The teen admitted under questioning that his father ​had shared with him his intentions to execute a terror attack against Israelis on Passover.

Awad, who was released in the 2011 Shalit prisoner exchange, is a Hamas operative who has been jailed previously for the murder of Palestinians who were believed to be cooperating with Israeli security forces. Awad told his son, according to the IDF, that “according to the Islamic religion, those who kill Jews go to heaven.” The son led police to the weapon used in the attack.

The Supreme Court justices said in their decision that despite pleas that the home not be destroyed because it would harm other innocent family members, the family shared the guilt because it was aware of Ziad Awad’s plans and collaborated with him.

The HaMoked Center for Defense of the Individual said in a statement issued after the court decision that “house demolitions constitute collective punishment, and are contrary to both international law and the basic precept of Israeli law that a person must not be punished for the acts of others. The demolition of houses does not replace criminal punishment but supplements it, and its chief victims are the occupants of the demolished house rather than the alleged perpetrator, who in most cases has been imprisoned or killed.”

For murdered teens, revenge is not enough


When I first heard the tragic news that the three kidnapped Israeli boys had been murdered by Palestinian terrorists, my immediate instinct was to cry out for revenge. What other sentiment could I have? How else to respond to such cruelty? Should we not punish the murderers and their Hamas leaders so as to deter future attacks?

This seems to be the general sentiment here in Israel, where, over the past two weeks, I have seen a nation go from prayer to grief to understandable anger.

Since the day of the abductions, the country prayed for the boys to return home. Somehow, we all thought, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) would find a way. But they didn’t. When the three dead bodies were finally found, the country went into that familiar chaotic emotion that blends grief with rage.

You grieve with one side of your heart, you scream for punishment with the other. This instinct to punish is a survival mechanism that dates from the beginning of time. Punishing evil is a way of keeping order, of making sure that the forces of good prevail.

Unrestrained evil is the biggest threat to the survival of our species, and when that evil is done in the name of God, as so often happens in the Middle East, all hell breaks loose, all rules go out the window.

This is what concerns me about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s initial response to the murders: He’s playing by the usual rules. You kill and I kill you back. Brutal meets brutal. “Hamas will pay,” he declared, and sure enough, one way or another, the IDF will make sure that Hamas pays.

But why are we so sure that the best way to punish Hamas is through the violence they revere? Why are we so sure that violence, even justified violence in the name of justice, is the thing that will hurt them the most?

Don’t get me wrong. We need to find the murderers and punish them. We need to inflict pain on the leaders of Hamas to discourage future attacks. This is infinitely wiser than rewarding them by releasing terrorists in return for hostages.

The problem with this standard kind of punishment, however, is that it doesn’t go deep enough. If we really want to punish the murderers and the ideology they represent, we must introduce something new into the picture: God.

The Hamas charter preaches killing in the name of God. This is a desecration of God’s name. We must turn the tables on the religious murderers and accuse them, loudly and publicly, of desecrating God’s name.

We must shame and humiliate the God-driven killers by using their own language.

“I can assure you that Allah does not want innocent students to be murdered,” Netanyahu must say to the leaders of Hamas. “To suggest otherwise is the ultimate blasphemy.”

Bibi must stop worrying about the Western media and the Western world, and speak directly to Muslims. He must tell them the truth: “The Quran did not sanction the deaths of these three boys.”

In this holy period of Ramadan, Bibi must be relentless and fearless with this message. He must tell the murderers that when they took the lives of these boys, and ripped out the hearts of their families, they also ripped out the heart of Allah.

“Yes, Allah is great,” Bibi must declare. “He is great because He values life, the life of all His children. You, who murder in the name of Allah, owe Him repentance. How will you repent?”

Bibi and others must preach in the name of a loving Allah with the same fiery passion as those who preach in the name of a hateful Allah.

This is bigger than terrorism. It’s bigger than the rules of crime and punishment. It’s bigger than the secular values of law and order.

This is, above all, about God, and helping the loving God win.

This loving God came up in a meeting I had in Ramallah last week with a Palestinian spokesperson. My friend Felice Friedson, who runs a Middle East news service called The Media Line, had arranged the meeting. After a long conversation that was full of polite talking points, I decided to take a chance. I looked him in the eye and said: “You and I have the same father, Abraham. We are children of the same God. We are all created in His image. Why is this not part of the conversation between our people?”

He seemed taken aback by my bluntness.

It felt odd that after a long discussion of politics, I would bring up God. But it got his attention. He nodded quietly. It was obvious that he took the notion of God seriously.

Here’s the point: This is a region where God is taken very seriously. Especially for those who kill in the name of God, nothing is bigger than the Almighty.

We must fight these killers not just with lethal missiles, but with lethal messages.

God-driven murderers who are now rampaging through much of the Middle East must be universally accused, loudly and relentlessly, of dishonoring their own God.

Nothing can hurt them more.


David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

Why evil committed in the name of God is worse


If I could ask one question of a religious person — of any faith — it would be, “What is the worst sin in your religion?”

The answer to this question can often tell you more than that of any other question about that person’s religion, or at least about that person’s own religious values. If someone were to respond, for example, “non-marital sex” or “atheism,” that would be, most of us would agree, unimpressive. These are sins in every monotheistic religion, but they are hardly the worst sins. Most of us would surely deem murder, or torture, or any serious act of immoral violence as a far worse sin.

The answer to this question is one of the few issues about which most religious Jews agree. When it comes to naming the worst sin in Judaism, they would respond “chillul haShem,” desecrating God’s name. This means doing evil while acting religious — or, to put it more simply, doing evil in God’s name.

From a Jewish perspective, as horrific as murder is, murder committed by an atheist individual or government is not as damaging as murder by a religious individual or government. From the victim’s perspective, of course, there is no difference. 

Why is murder committed in the name of God worse? Because it ruins God’s name. And belief in a morally demanding and morally judging God as the only means to a better world is at the heart of the Jewish message. When God is rendered the source of evil rather than the source of good, hope for a good world is shattered.

That is why the evil committed in our time by Muslims in the name of God and of religion has had a particularly negative effect on this generation’s faith in God. Never has atheism been as robust as it has been in the last few decades. 

It cannot be a coincidence that this period has also seen more evil done in God’s name than any time since the Middle Ages. And while religious spokespeople have, of course, condemned Islamic terrorism, few Jewish or Christian — not to mention Muslim — clergy have regularly spoken out against all this evil in God’s name. Instead, far more Jewish and Christian clergy have devoted considerable time to speaking out against “Islamophobia.” They have inferred from all the murder and maiming done in the name of Allah that it is not God’s name that most needs defending, but Islam’s. In so doing, these Christians and Jews have damaged religion and the essential religious message that God is good and demands good.

One might add that the Roman Catholic priests who molested young boys — and sometimes, but much more rarely, young girls — also not only horrifically harmed their victims but God’s name as well. 

Exactly 40 years ago, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin and I wrote our book “The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism.” One of the nine questions was, “If Judaism Is Supposed to Make People Better, How Do You Account for Unethical Religious Jews?” 

We ended our answer to that question with an appeal to observant Jews who were known to be dishonest in their business affairs: If you are known for keeping kosher and also known for shady business practices, we wrote, please stop those practices. But if you do not stop those practices, please stop keeping kosher.

If Jews and Christians better understood the commandment against “taking God’s name in vain,” perhaps the greatest sin would have been more obvious to them.

“Do not take the Lord your God’s name in vain” is how the King James Version translates what Jews call the third commandment (Jews and Christians number the Ten Commandments somewhat differently). This translation is understandable, but it is a serious mistranslation.

Literally translated, what the commandment states is: “Do not carry [or “lift”] the Lord your God’s name in vain.”

And who is it that carries God’s name in vain? The person who commits evil in God’s name. The proof that this is the correct translation is not only linguistic. The very fact that God says that this is the one commandment whose violation He will not forgive makes it clear that this is the worst sin, and that it cannot possibly mean one who says “God” in a non-religious context — such as saying, “God, that was a terrific movie.”

If religious Jews and Christians want to make a moral dent in the world, there is no greater place to start than by announcing loudly and clearly what the greatest sin is. Until then, atheism will only increase. No atheist arguments alienate people from God as much as bad religious people do. 

And when the religious world is largely silent about the religious evil that permeates our world, it reconfirms the irrelevance of God and religion to making a good world. As I said, the problem is not protecting Islam’s reputation — that is the job of Muslims — it is protecting God’s reputation.


Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host (AM 870 in Los Angeles) and founder of PragerUniversity.com. His latest book is the New York Times best-seller “Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph” (HarperCollins, 2012).

Menachem Stark’s posthumous win


You can’t exactly say he was lucky.

Menachem Stark, the Hasidic Brooklyn landlord and father of seven who was abducted and murdered in January, was the winner of an $18,000 raffle drawn Wednesday night, according to the Jewish Political Updates website.

He had bought $100 worth of raffle tickets in December, part of a fundraiser for a Bobov charity that helps poor families pay for wedding expenses. His family was notified of the prize on Thursday morning.

Stark, 39, was kidnapped outside his Williamsburg, Brooklyn office on Jan. 2; his partially burned body was found in a garbage bin on Long Island the next day.

After his murder, much of the media attention focused on Stark’s questionable business practices and his reputation as a slumlord. However, he was widely lauded as a generous philanthropist in the Hasidic community. The New York Post tabloid enraged many Orthodox Jews when it published a photo of Stark on its front page, with the headline, “Who Didn’t Want Him Dead?”

In the years before his murder, he withdrew nearly $3.6 million from his business to pay personal debts, and was deeply in debt at the time of his disappearance, according to the New York Daily News.

The New York Police Department is still investigating his murder and has not made any arrests.