Rabbi Lior allows breaking Shabbat to prepare terror suspects for Shin Bet

Lior ruled that the activists had been correct to violate Shabbat to warn the suspects due to the harsh conditions of incarceration and the danger.

January 7, 2019 20:10
2 minute read.
Rabbi Dov Lior

Rabbi Dov Lior. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Rabbi Dov Lior, one of the most senior arbiters of Jewish law in the national-religious sector, gave a ruling that it is permitted to violate Shabbat in order to assist terror suspects who will be questioned by the Shin Bet internal security service.

Lior gave his ruling orally to an official from the Honenu organization, which gives legal representation to right-wing Jewish nationalist police suspects, after Aysha Ravi a Palestinian mother of nine was killed on Friday, October 12 by rocks apparently hurled from the roadside while travelling with her husband in their car near the Tapuah junction in the West Bank.

Far-right Jewish nationalists are suspected of responsibility for the attack in which Ravi died as a result of the injuries she sustained.

On the same Friday on which Ravi was killed, right wing activists in the settlement of Yitzhar became aware of heavy activity by law enforcement officials, including from the Shin Bet, in the nearby settlement of Rehelim and close to the Pri Haaretz yeshiva there.

The five suspects in Ravi’s death arrested on Sunday, Dec. 31 and this past Saturday, Jan. 5, are all enrolled as students at the Pri Haaretz yeshiva.

The activists in Yitzhar decided to drive to Rehelim on Shabbat morning after consulting with a rabbinical figure in the settlement, in order to tell the suspects how to respond and deal with the Shin Bet interrogation.

Travelling on Shabbat and driving a car involve violations of several strict Jewish laws pertaining to the Sabbath and is not permitted by Jewish law under almost any circumstances, unless someone’s life is in danger.

Following their actions, an official from Honenu spoke with Lior and asked whether or not his actions had been commensurate with Jewish law, bearing in mind his claim that the Shin Bet uses harsh interrogation techniques.

Lior ruled that the activists had been correct to violate Shabbat to warn the suspects due to the harsh conditions of incarceration and the danger that they could lose their mind in the interrogation.

“In my humble opinion, in accordance with what I was told that one of the boys tried to kill himself after the suffering he experienced, meaning that the conditions are not reasonable and appropriate for a democratic state, the boys [who drove on Shabbat to Rehelim] who came to encourage and give strength to the lads can be thought to have saved them,” ruled Lior.

“We have a principle that if someone is being taken to be destroyed [mentally] then it is possible to violate Shabbat for them, despite it not being a physical problem but rather a psychological one. Here too, there is a problem that these boys are likely to lose their minds as has happened [in the past], so certainly there is a principle to save them and strengthen them for these reasons.”

Rabbi Yehoshua Schmidt, dean of the Nahalat Yosef Yeshiva in the Shavei Shomron settlement has publicly backed Lior’s position.

According to Honenu, one of the activists who made the journey said that because of past reports of Shin Bet practices, “we understood that the right preparation and support for the youths for this situation [questioning] could actually save lives.”

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