Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

3 Tammuz 5762 - June 13, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Reflections on Trigger-Happy Police

The facts are chilling -- and so are the reactions.

The difficult security situation puts people on edge, especially those charged with preserving public safety. At any time and in any place anyone, and especially anyone in a uniform, can suddenly be the object of a heartless and cruel attack. Sometimes, being quick on the draw can mean the difference between the death of a terrorist and the deaths of dozens of innocent victims.

Yet there is always the serious concern that a gun-carrying guard who must regard everyone approaching him with suspicion, hour after hour and day after day, trying to do his job properly with regard to the safety of many people who depend on him, may harm some innocent person who looks or acts suspiciously for some entirely innocent reason.

Last week there was an incident that brought those fears into very sharp focus. A four-and-a-half year old boy was in intensive care for a week after being shot in the back by a police volunteer.

The family was traveling in their car near Latrun Junction when a police officer flagged them down. The volunteer, who was wearing an official uniform, approached them and asked why the children in the back seat were not wearing seat belts as the road regulations demand.

The driver became angry. "I told him, `What, you want to give us a ticket?' " (The fine is NIS 170 per unbuckled passenger, plus another NIS 170 to the driver for allowing unbuckled passengers.)

"The children were sleeping in back. I gave him my identity papers and I told him, `You do what you want!' and we went back into the car."

The driver had no intention of waiting around to see what the policeman had in mind, but he left all his identifying documents behind and there would certainly have been no trouble finding him. He started his car, drove around the police car parked at the side of the road and, as he was preparing to merge into the traffic, he suddenly heard shots.

The mother reports, "The car windows were shattered and our three-and-a-half year old daughter started screaming. Daniel did not make a sound, but we saw right away that his shirt was full of blood."

The family was later told that there were seven bullet holes in their car. Even senior police officers admitted that there was no threat to the lives of the policemen at the scene, and the shots were aimed at the car before the normal preliminary warning procedures were followed.

There is no doubt that all the responses about the importance of drilling everyone who carries a gun in the weighty responsibility that he carries in deciding to shoot are very important. We heartily agree with those who say that, with all the gratitude and respect we have for the job that the security forces do every day, it cannot be a basis for tolerating such behavior. No one can be forgiven for firing a weapon in a direction that could have such terrible, foreseeable consequences.

But other commentators go a step further and contrast the "unimportant violation" of not wearing seat belts that the driver was charged with to the reaction of the policeman in shooting them. And here is where we are shocked.

An attitude that minimizes the importance of wearing seatbelts is part of the problem, not the solution. Resentment at being forced to buckle up children goes together with reckless driving, smoking, court-sanctioned "mercy" killing, suicide parties and suicide bombers, and more as indicators of the modern breakdown in valuing human life.

The only way to truly fix this problem is to correct it systematically, throughout human society, wherever it appears. There is nothing unimportant about that.

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