The death of a female soldier in a car accident last Friday has led to an unusual response – the revival of an ancient ceremony described in the Bible. The ceremony was traditionally used in cases where a person was murdered by an unknown killer.
Rabbis belonging to the Tzohar organization held the “egla arufa” ceremony on Thursday morning in response to the death of Manesh Yazachu, a 19-year-old soldier who was killed in a hit-and-run accident near the town of Yokneam.
The driver who hit Manesh abandoned the scene, leaving her in the road, where she was hit by subsequent cars.
Rabbis met at the gas station at the entrance to Kibbutz Zorea, and said the ancient prayer, “Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it. Forgive, oh Lord, they people Israel, whom Thou hast redeemed, and suffer not innocent blood to remain in the midst of Thy people Israel.”
They did not conduct the traditional sacrifice of a calf at the site of the death.
Rabbi David Stav, head of Tzohar, explained that the ceremony was intended to draw attention to the responsibility the community bears to keep its members safe. “One could ask, how can the people of the city who did not know, did not hear and did not see be guilty? We see here an uncompromising moral view, a determination that all of us – religious, traditional, secular – must adopt: we are responsible for spilled blood.
“We are responsible for the blood spilled in traffic accidents, for the blood of youth shed in pointless fighting, for the women murdered by their husbands. We are responsible for the blood spilled in the murders we read about in the papers. When it comes to human life, there is no escaping responsibility.”
“Indirect responsibility is still responsibility,” he added.
The ceremony is as relevant today as it was in the past, said Rabbi Rafi Foyerstein. “If every time a woman were murdered by her husband the heads of social services, the family court judges and the local rabbi would come and say, ‘We did everything possible to prevent this,’ reality would look better,” he said.