No exceptions to ‘Thou shalt not kill’

My parents taught me that killing is wrong, especially to settle an argument. So why did some of my friends say it was okay to kill Yitzhak Rabin?

Rabin Hatred 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Rabin Hatred 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Like most seventh-grade classes around the country, our class discussed the murder of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin last week on the anniversary of the shooting. I was very disappointed that a lot of my classmates thought it was okay for Yigal Amir to kill the prime minister. Some even said that Rabin deserved to be killed.
In my family, we have always discussed the murder and my parents have always told us that nothing justifies murder, especially not a disagreement about politics.
But that morning in school, a teacher came into our class to talk to us about Rabin’s life and about the murder. He showed us some pictures of Rabin as a kid, when he was a commander in the Hagana before Israel became a country, as a soldier in the IDF and later as a general. We saw the video of the demonstration at Malchei Israel Square on that evening, and we saw Yigal Amir shoot Rabin as he walked down the steps after the rally.
The teacher also showed us pictures of the anti-Rabin demonstrations that happened the summer before he was killed. At those demonstrations, there were posters showing Rabin in a Nazi uniform and protesters called him a traitor.
We also saw a video clip of a recent Beitar Jerusalem soccer game where fans booed when the announcer mentioned the murder and said Israel would never forget him.
The same clip showed an interview with a Beitar fan in which the man said he doesn’t support murder, but he also said mazal tov to a Jew (Yigal Amir) that had recently had a baby. The man on the video said that he doesn’t think we should have a national day of memory for Rabin, just like we don’t have one for other prime ministers like David Ben-Gurion or Menachem Begin.
WHEN THE video was over and we started talking about it in class, a few kids said it was wrong to kill the prime minister, but a lot of kids didn’t agree. The kids that didn’t agree said Rabin deserved what he got because they said he was responsible for the murders of a lot of Jews by signing the Oslo Accords, and they said that showing Rabin as a Nazi soldier was okay.
But I don’t understand why they said those things. I don’t really know very much about the Oslo Accords other than the fact that Rabin was trying to make peace with the Arabs and that a lot of Jews were killed because of that. It is terrible that so many Jews were killed because of the Oslo Accords, but I think Rabin had a good idea. The Land of Israel is very important, but so is peace.
I also know that Rabin was an Israeli hero. Before Israel became a country he fought in the Palmach and during the War of Independence he was an officer in the Harel Brigade of the IDF. He was the main commander of the Jerusalem area while the Jordanians prevented food and supplies from reaching Jerusalem in 1948.
In 1967 he was the army chief of staff when Israel won the Six Day War and we won back Jerusalem, Gush Etzion and the rest of Judea and Samaria. Because of this, everybody who lives in Judea and Samaria or visits the Kotel should thank him.
To me, showing a hero like that as a Nazi was outrageous. It made me feel really angry at the people who held up those posters. What were they thinking by doing that? Were they saying they want more Nazis in the world? Did they mean that Rabin hated Jews and wanted kill them all? Seeing those posters made me feel embarrassed to be an Israeli and to be religious.
When my friends said that it was okay for Yigal Amir to murder Rabin, I asked them why they think that. One kid compared it to the Jewish law principle that “someone who steals from a thief isn’t punished.”
Another kid said that you should kill anybody who kills other people. One more kid said that just talking to the Arabs was reason enough for Amir to have shot Rabin.
But I don’t understand these kids at all.
Doesn’t the Torah say Don’t Kill? Don’t we have a fast day to mourn Gedalia ben Ahikam, a Jewish leader that was killed by another Jew? In modern times, when the IDF sank the Altalena, didn’t Menachem Begin tell his Irgun forces not to shoot back so we didn’t have a civil war? I asked my friends these questions. They said the case of Gedalia was different but they couldn’t really explain why. They said the mitzva not to kill didn’t apply to Rabin because Yigal Amir was an “avenger” (ed. note – this refers to Deuteronomy chapter 19 that says an individual who kills to take revenge is not subject to the death penalty). They felt that because the Oslo Accords had led to many Jewish deaths, the usual laws about murder didn’t apply to Rabin.
I told them that Rabin did sign the agreements but not because he wanted to see Jews killed. He signed them because he thought they would help stop Jews from being killed by making sure there wouldn’t be any more wars.
My parents told me that Rabin made a lot of mistakes during the Oslo years, but in our family they have always said that there is no excuse for murder. Our family believes that the Land of Israel is a source of strength for the Jewish people, both in Israel and all over the world. But human life is more important. Yigal Amir seems to think that the opposite is true. That’s not part of the Torah that I believe in.
I am happy I wasn’t alive at the time that Rabin was killed. In a democracy, it is important for people to express their thoughts and to demonstrate against the government when they disagree with it.
But after that terrible evening I would have thought that the religious Zionist world would have learned some lessons about the way to express anger and frustration.
The fact that my friends said that Rabin deserved to be murdered seems to say that we haven’t yet learned those lessons.
The writer is a seventh grade student at Derech Avot junior high school in Efrat. He is the son of Andrew Friedman, opinion editor of The Jerusalem Post)