At a protest over the death of Ahuvya Sandak
At a protest over the death of Ahuvya Sandak David Cohen/Flash90

Amid the ongoing demonstrations and protests at the death of sixteen-year-old Ahuvya Sandak, killed as a result of a police chase last Monday when the car he was traveling in was either rammed off the road by police, or flew off the road when the driver lost control, Rabbi Yaakov Meidan of Yeshivat Har Etzion has spoken out, urging people to tone down the vocabulary of the debate, and specifically, to stop using the word “murder” to refer to Ahuvya’s death.

“The fact that a large number of respected rabbis are expressing their criticism of the behavior of the police and the state prosecution service with relation to the terrible death of Ahuvya Sandak is to be welcomed,” he wrote. “There is a great deal of truth to what is being said – that the police and prosecution services focus in a grossly disproportionate manner on the crimes of Jews against Arabs, paying scant attention to the vastly greater number of crimes committed by Arabs against Jews. That is not to say that I condone the crimes of Jews – I do not – but the discrimination is apparent.”

However, he added a note of caution, and appealed for his words to be understood appropriately. “I hope that the words of our rabbis will be at least of some comfort to the Sandak family,” he wrote further, “and that the authorities will draw the proper conclusions from the terrible event that has occurred. All the same, I want to stress that, terrible as the incident was, with police chasing after a number of youths that ended in the death of one of them, it was an accident – a very serious accident – but an accident nonetheless, and not murder, and certainly not a premeditated crime.”

Rabbi Meidan then went on to warn of the possible repercussions of calling the incident a murder: “Those who want to call this tragedy a murder should be aware that if that’s what they’re saying today, tomorrow, the Europeans and radical left-wing organizations could be using the same term to describe deaths that occur accidentally in the course of IDF operations in Gaza, for instance. Just two weeks ago, there was such a case, when an Israeli tank mistakenly fired on a building there. And let’s recall also the case of the IDF soldier who hesitated to fire on a terrorist who had just thrown a firebomb. Calling accidental deaths ‘murder’ is likely to lead to many more such instances,” he cautioned.

Referring to the ongoing protests against the police, which have featured a significant number of violent acts committed by police and protesters alike, Rabbi Meidan suggested that discourse describing Ahuvya Sandak as a “murder victim” had likely added fuel to the fire of “fringe elements.”

“I have seen some of the stones thrown at these protests,” he wrote, “and some of them could have killed. Several police officers have already been injured at the protests, some of them in the head. We’re talking about police officers who might have been patrolling our towns and cities the night before, in the cold and rain; police officers who have families and young children.”

In conclusion, Rabbi Meidan stressed that, “rabbis must not use extreme terms without first hearing both sides of the story, and we would all do well to refresh our memories of the laws of forbidden speech as clarified in the sefer Chafetz Chaim – that it is forbidden to spread false reports regarding our fellow Jews.”