Ayin Tachat Ayin… An Eye For An Eye (PLUS)

The name Amraphel appears twice in the Hebrew Bible (Genesis 14: 1 and again in verse 9).

King of Shinar, he is associated by Assyriologist scholars as the famous king and law-giver, Hammurabi, who ruled in Babylon from 1792 BCE until his death in 1750 BCE.

The Midrash Tanhuma and Targum Yonatan, in Rabbinic literature, identifies him with Nimrod who reigned in Mesopotamia at the time of Abraham of Ur.

He is the author of the oldest code of laws in ancient civilization. The Code of Hammurabi was written in cuneiform in the Akkadian language and consisted of 282 laws, many of them adopted and redacted by Moses centuries later when Hebrew laws were being established.

One of the most well-known of Hammurabi’s Code was the lex talionis… “ayin tachat ayin, shen tachat shen”… an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

In accepting this law, Moses rejected the concept of an equal punishment… taking out the eye of a man who has caused another man to lose an eye…and instead he created a new form of the Hammurabi law Code which we would today call “compensation”.

Each part of the body was given a monetary value and a victim was entitled to payment from the one who had caused the injury. Instead of removing an eye or a tooth from one who had caused the damage to another, the perpetrator was obligated to pay the established compensatory fine.

Moses, in his wisdom, decided on the amount to be paid according to one’s social status. Thus, a slave was not entitled to the same compensation due to a free man.

The Code of Hammurabi, in several aspects, was practiced during the rule of the British Mandatory government in Palestine. For example, the mukhtar in every Arab village and the mayor of every Arab city were sent warning notices holding them personally responsible for terrorist crimes committed by anyone from their village or city.

If an Arab from Tulkarem or an Arab from Ramallah was responsible for the murder of a British soldier, the Mandatory authorities would demand that two Arabs from the community be handed over to the British police. Two for the crime of one.

If British military property or government buildings were bombed or severely damaged, five homes in the city or village of the terrorist involved were demolished. “Ayin tachat ayin” plus more.

It was an effective plan because it greatly reduced Arab terrorist attacks upon British officials and British property. The Arabs were then free to continue murdering Jews and too often they were not apprehended and escaped punishment.

It is, in my opinion, a plan that should be re- introduced now. Warning notices should be distributed to every mukhtar and every mayor throughout all the Arab towns, cities and villages of Judea-Samaria warning them that they personally would be held responsible for any terrorist activity carried out by a resident of their communities.

Mass arrests and demolition of homes is an effective way of eliminating acts of terrorism by youthful fanatics who would not wish to see
their parents homeless or deported to other places.

Hammurabi’s Code, ancient and yet modern, can be an effective tool in reducing
Arab terrorism. It should be considered by our military commanders, recommended to our government and put into law.

We can still learn from ancient Babylonian wisdom and follow the once-hated policies of the British Mandatory authorities.

What worked once may still work successfully again.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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