The following true story is dedicated to the neshama of Orit Ansbacher HY”D, who was killed at the age of 19.
Several years ago I was working in an office when Moshe came in to use a computers. Moshe was a man in his early sixties and was a native-born Israeli. Moshe had a very serious demeanor, and although he acted cordial, had a look on his face like something was profoundly disturbing and frightening him.
Moshe did not wear a kippah. When I attempted to lightheartedly ask him why, he responded by using an obscene word to describe what he thought of religion. I did not question him further about it, but remained curious about that frightened look on face. A few days later, when I began to ask him about his prior life in Israel, I received my answer when he recited the following story.
During the late 70s, when Menachem Begin was prime minister, Moshe was a police officer working in Jersualem. One day, as he walked out of the police station in Jerusalem, he was shot in the back. Fortunately, the bullet did not hit any major internal organs and narrowly missed a kidney by only a few centimeters.
Police identified the suspect as a 17-year-old Arab who had climbed up on the roof of the police station and had waited for the opportunity to kill a police officer. They did not arrest him right away, because Moshe wanted to accompany his fellow officers to the home of the suspect.
When they got to the East Jerusalem home, Moshe asked the other officers to remain in the police car while he went alone into the house to make the arrest. The parents were home, but their son was not. After questioning the father and identifying himself as the victim the father blurted out to Moshe that it was “too bad” that he had been lucky and had not been killed.
Those words gave Moshe the information he was seeking. Moshe decided right then and there to take matters into his own hands. He took out the gun he carried and began to execute the entire family, including the all the young children and any infants that were present. I do not recall if he told me the exact number of people in the family, but he did say that he killed them all with the exception of the terrorist who was not home at the time.
Later on that day, according to Moshe, the young man was brought in to the police station and placed in a holding cell. Moshe said that he then went to see him in the cell and asked him the reason why he tried to kill him. The man answered that he was promised whatever reward it is that they tell young Arabs that they will receive later on in heaven in order to get them to kill Jews. Moshe responded by telling him “well, you are going there now” before taking the gun he was hiding behind his back and blowing the terrorist away right there in the jail cell.
Upon hearing this story I myself felt “blown away” before rapidly coming to understand why it was that Moshe always appeared with that frightened look upon his face and dismissed religion as nothing but fabricated nonsense. He had done something that his conscience considered to be an atrocity and the only way he could live with himself was by pretending that no G-d that existed who could judge him for such an unimaginable deed and for which there should logically be no forgiveness.
At first I had difficulty believing this story, but Moshe explained to me that under the Begin government, Israelis did not regard themselves the same way as now. Back then they did not see themselves as the same “grasshoppers” on the international spectrum as they do today. Back then the government might “look the other way” and permit citizens of Israel to do what is necessary to defend themselves when the law could not do so. It did not take any more to convince me that I had heard the truth.
I only knew Moshe briefly and do not see him anymore, yet I continue to feel sorry for him because I can feel his pain. The reason why Moshe went and perhaps still goes around with trepidation is because even at the time he committed those extremist actions, he was probably not a believer in G-d. The difference between him and somebody like Baruch Goldstein, is that the latter was a strong believer in Hashem before he killed 39 Arabs in Maara’t Hamachpelah in 1995.
It could also be said that Moshe’s actions were pre-emptive to a large degree. Upon being questioned, the father practically admitted to knowledge of the terror act and judging by the nature of his response may be presumed to even have encouraged his son to try to kill an Israeli Police Officer. The younger children could be viewed as “waiting in the wings” to kill when they become old enough to competently use a weapon.
The only time it is justified for a private person to take the law into his own hands is when the law is inadequate for the protection of himself, his family and his fellow Jews and perhaps also when the government remains intransigent to correct the situation. Over the past several years, perhaps due to Israel’s vigilance against suicide bombs, Israelis have become victimized by the “lone martyr” type terrorist, which has usually come in the form of an impressionable teen who has been coached and inspired to kill a Jewish soldier or civilian.
Yet despite the inherent difficulties in containing or preventing this “new” type of terrorist, nothing different has been done by the government to alter the situation. Only in the wake of the ghastly rape and murder two weeks ago of Orit Ansbacher H”yd have we finally been hearing calls for Israel to implement the death penalty. Up until now, the petitions for this law to be enforced have fallen on deaf ears, leaving the families of victims to grieve in pain while terrorists are given the chance to realize one of the main rewards that was promised to them.
Terrorism is more than a person with an explosive belt or a knife. It involves entire communities. In such a precarious situation, we might hardly be willing to blame anyone who might find it preferable to live under a government that looked away from the actions of vigilante policemen like Moshe.
In fact, there are those who would justifiably feel that Moshe is not the only one who should feel trepidation. If this latest confessed terrorist is not treated any differently upon conviction than his terrorist predecessors, perhaps Moshe should consider that what he did may not have been as wrong as he thinks. Perhaps Moshe should consider even lightening up a bit, because as I watched this 29-year-old murderer sitting in the midst of his far too humane captors, he did not appear to be trembling or to have any remorse.
Lawrence Kulak is an attorney and freelance writer. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org