Rabbi Yossi Elitzur 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy Honenu)
Rabbi Yossi Elitzur of the Od Yosef Hai yeshiva in Yitzhar and co-author of the
controversial work on Jewish law, Torat Hamelech, wrote in a halachic ruling on
Monday that should someone encounter a terrorist, it is preferable to shoot and
kill them rather than call the police or attempt to apprehend the person in
question, since he may be released in a future prisoner swap.
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the Kol Yehudi website, Elitzur said that the imagined, although “not
unrealistic” situation is a relevant issue in Jewish law “following the [recent]
release of numerous murderers and a number of attempted terrorist attacks” since
the Schalit prisoner-exchange deal was completed last week.
state apparatus broadcasts in an unequivocal manner that there is almost no
price to be paid for shedding Jewish blood, it is not clear if it’s a good idea
to let the police take care of these issues,” the rabbi wrote.
very least, if there is a window of opportunity in which you can claim
selfdefense so that the [legal] framework won’t be overtly damaged, it is better
to kill the terrorist and so raise the price of Jewish blood, which has been
However, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, head of the Ateret
Yerushalayim yeshiva in the Old City of Jerusalem and a leading
religious-Zionist figure, told The Jerusalem Post that a private citizen should
not take the law into their own hands in this manner.
“Only the police
can decide to do such a thing, not a private individual,” he said. “If there is
a clear danger to life then of course the terrorist can be killed immediately
but otherwise it is for the state to decide whether or not to give the death
penalty to terrorists.”
Aviner added that in his opinion the death
penalty should be applied to prevent the recidivism which has occurred in the
past among released terrorists and to serve as a warning.
Elitzur, together with Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, authored a work entitled Torat
Hamelech: Part One: Laws of Life and Death between Israel and the Nations
relating to the attitude of Jewish law towards killing non-Jews in times of war.
The book states that under certain circumstances, non-Jews not involved in
hostilities may be preemptively killed, including children.
In his column
on Monday, Elitzur said that the ruling applied in a case where a person sees a
terrorist “trying to kill Jews,” and is confronted with the question whether or
not to attempt to subdue him, tie him up and call the police, or simply shoot
and kill him.”
On the one hand, he wrote, the terrorist can be
categorized in Jewish law as a rodef or pursuer, someone who represents a mortal
threat to another’s life. Such a person, according to Jewish law, may be
On the other hand, Elitzur wrote, the principle in Jewish law of
abiding by the laws of the state in which one lives is an important
consideration, and that just as it is dangerous to allow a murderer to remain at
liberty, it is also dangerous to allow people to act outside of the
“However, even if in general it’s better to leave these issues to
the [legal] framework, sometimes this framework creates a situation in which it
is dangerous to rely upon it,” Elitzur wrote.
The logic for “an Arab
murderer” is simple, Elitzur claimed. “Either he succeeds in harming a Jew and
successfully escapes; or he fails, but is caught, sits in prison for a short
period and is at some stage released in another concession to the Arabs; or he
succeeds in killing Jews, is caught and imprisoned for a few years in decent
conditions and gains an academic degree, while his friends try to kidnap another
soldier to bring the State [of Israel] to its knees once again and the murderer