One year ago, on a Tuesday morning, a hardworking 67- year-old man crossed the
street in Rehovot at 5 a.m. on his way to work at a cleaning company.
pedestrian, Shmuel Rotshtein, was unaware that a car driven by a young man, who
police say was intoxicated, was speeding toward him.
19-year-old Sagi Gamliel, and his passenger, Hamema Karni, a girlfriend, had
spent the night in a public park drinking with friends, according to
By the time Gamliel noticed Rotshtein on the street, it was too
late. He tried in vain to swerve left, but struck Rotshtein and fatally wounded
him. Rotshtein succumbed to his injuries on the road.
The driver and his
passenger did not stop to provide assistance, state prosecutors have charged.
Instead, they arrived at Gamliel’s home and went to bed, allegedly hoping that
by pretending nothing had happened, they would escape the consequences of being
active participants in a lethal hit-and-run.
But a few hours later,
police caught up with the two and arrested them.
Gamliel was charged with
manslaughter, abandoning an injured person after an accident, and driving while
Karni was also charged with abandoning an injured person
after an accident. State prosecutors are preparing to go to trial in
This week, Rotshtein’s relatives have come forward with a
simple request: to remember that behind all the accident figures are human
“It is very important to me that my uncle not become just another
statistic,” Ruti Bell told The Jerusalem Post
from her home in the United
States. Rotshtein was her mother’s brother.
“Shmuel was someone’s
husband, father, brother, uncle, friend... He was a good man who didn’t deserve
to die like an animal in the road,” said Bell.
Rotshtein arrived in
Israel from Poland at age 13 with his parents, brother and sister.
went to school, and served his country in the army. He worked hard to be a good
provider for his family. He was a very caring and gentle man. He wouldn’t hurt a
fly,” his niece said.
His brother, Yeshua, was killed in the War of
Attrition with Egypt. His parents have since passed away.
“Shmuel went to
the cemetery on a regular basis to clean and take care of his parents’ and
brother’s graves. He was a man who valued family and valued life.
never asked anyone for anything.
He was just a kind and gentle soul,”
Bell said. “Now my mom goes to the cemetery and has to light a candle for every
member of her family, her parents and her two dead brothers – one killed
tragically defending his country, and the other killed senselessly by an
unremorseful drunk driver.”
During questioning, Gamliel claimed Rotshtein
had darted out into the street without warning – an argument dismissed by police
– and said he had fled the scene after panicking.
“The people of Israel,
and all over the world, need to understand that a car is a weapon when the
person who gets behind the wheel is drunk or on drugs,” Bell said. “Who knows
what could have happened if Gamliel had immediately called for help. Maybe my
uncle could have been saved. Instead, Gamliel ran over an innocent man, drove
home, and went to bed.”
Bell said only a life sentence would be an
appropriate punishment. “It will not bring my uncle back, but maybe the message
will save someone else’s life because people will think twice before drinking
She added, “I don’t want my uncle’s death to be in vain. I
was a prosecutor in New York for six years, and I believe that it is up to the
justice system to send a message to people that their crimes matter, that the
victims and the victims’ families matter.”
In a statement sent to the
this week, Traffic Police said that “hit-and-run accidents are a top
priority for police, both for traffic safety and moral reasons.”
cases, drivers turn themselves in within hours of the accidents, but in some
cases, as occurred in Rehovot last year, police reach the driver after gathering
forensic evidence and intelligence from the crash scene.
don’t turn themselves in usually have “an additional reason to flee the scene,
such as being drunk, or driving without a license or insurance,” police
“Investigation teams are immediately set up after the accidents
and invest large resources in locating the criminal.
Accordingly, in more
than 85 percent of cases, the fleeing driver is caught,” police
According to figures made available by Traffic Police, nine
people have lost their lives this year so far in hit-and-runs; 11 people were
killed in hit-and-runs in 2010.
Police said a general downward trend was
discernible in such incidents. In total, 539 hit-and-run accidents were recorded
in 2010, a decrease from 659 in 2009. In the past five years, 2006 had the
highest hit-and-run rate, with 835 such incidents recorded by
Despite this particular decrease, though, some 35% of all
accidents involving fatalities are still cases of cars striking pedestrians. As
a basis for comparison, the average in Europe is 15%- 17%.
deserved a chance to live. He was a good man who deserved better, in life
and in death,” Bell said.