By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
Saeb Muhammad Salih Erekat, Secretary General of the Executive Committee of the PLO, regularly calls stabbings, car-rammings, and shootings by Palestinians against Israeli civilians “self-defense.” He has equated Israelis with ISIS terrorists. The former chief negotiator for the PLO has said on numerous occasions, “I will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state.”
Erekat has frequently libeled Israel, aided terrorists and was an obstacle to peace. He supports the Palestinian Authority’s police of “Pay to Slay.” He has time and time again denied all archaeological evidence that demonstrates the ancient Jewish presence in Yerushalayim.
Now he is sick with COVID-19 and is being treated in Hadassah hospital in Israel. From a halachic perspective, should this be done? Some want something in return for the treatment — perhaps give us back some of our dead? Others say, “No, let’s just do the humanitarian thing and treat his COVID-19. And some say that treating him just shows weakness.
According to the Jerusalem Post, Likud Knesset Member Ariel Kallner tweeted, “If the Palestinians had invested more in their healthcare system instead of terrorism,” Erekat could have been treated there. “The fact that we give him treatment is not a sign of morality,” Rather, he said, “it shows weakness.”
As in all matters of halachah, the topic needs to be properly explored, and we must leave emotion behind. The underlying issue is the idea of “eivah” and its parameters. “Eivah” literally means, “hate.” Halachah tells us that when certain actions on our part would engender an excessive, hate-filled reaction on the part of others, we can and must temper or change those actions on our part.
In Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 158:1), we find that the idea of eivah allows us to provide medical care that would save a life of someone for whom halachah would normally not sanction to provide that care. Tosfos in Gittin 70a (Rav Shimi bar Ashi) explain that Rav Shimi possibly cured such a person on account of eivah. (Imagine that a Nazi leader was shot, for example, in Hitler’s famous Beer Hall Putsch. Would it have been permitted for Jews to provide that Nazi leader with medical care? Normally, halachah would not sanction it, but if it may lead to eivah, it would be permitted. As a historical note, two Jewish women did provide such medical assistance to Hermann Goering, y’s, when he was shot at the Putsch. Their actions did not help stop the Holocaust.)
In Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 334:26), the Rema rules that if a fire breaks out in a gentile location and the Jew is present, it is permitted to violate Shabbos and put out the fire so that they not accuse us and the matter would lead to eivah. While it could be that this is considered a melachah she’einah tzricha l’gufa, it still appears to all as a full-fledged biblical prohibition.
Why Israel Treats Terrorists
Terrorists are murderers of innocent people, and once cured of whatever ails them they will probably go out and murder again. Yet, if terrorists are not treated, then other innocents will suffer. Therefore, we are treating them so that mankind in general will benefit. When two doctors posed the question of treating terrorists to Rav Elyashiv, zt’l, he ruled that they should be treated on account of eivah. On the other hand, Rav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, once indicated quite the opposite in regard to a neutralized terrorist a few years ago.
Fascinating Meshech Chochmah
Regarding the mitzvah of eishes yefas to’ar, Meshech Chochmah on Devarim 21:10 asks why it was necessary for the Torah to write the following emphasized words in the verse, “When you go to war against your enemies and Hashem delivers them into your hands and you take captives, if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife.” It would have made sense to just write, “When you go to war against your enemies and you take captives.”
The Meshech Chochmah answers that only when you have completely vanquished the enemy would it be permitted to take a captive woman as a wife. Otherwise, the enemy may also capture women and they may forcibly marry them against their will if they hear that you had married one of their captive women.
Not All Eivahs Are Alike
Clearly, not every eivah is created equally. Rav Moshe Feinstein, (Y.D. 1 #184) cites a number of sources where some eivahs would permit Shabbos violation, while others would not. The Chelkas Yaakov (Y.D. #168) also differentiates between different times and places in regard to eivah. How bad is this particular eivah and will it adversely affect the way innocent people are treated in other countries and places?
Where Eivah Can Affect the Innocent
The terrorists who stab and kill still have landsmen who empathize with them in Turkey, Iran, and in other areas, too. Is it really beyond the pale of our imagination that the Iranians and the Turks would not retaliate against Jews if we started to delay treatment of injured terrorists? Do they so understand the evils of terrorism that they would refuse retaliation?
The view of Rav Elyashiv, zt’l, was that we should not do things that could jeopardize the safety of innocents in other countries. A tit-for-tat could escalate, and innocent people could suffer in the future in Turkey, other European countries, and even in the United States.
Rabbi Hoffman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.