Does Israel Have One Law for All?

Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit publicly announced this week his intention to charge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with various alleged crimes while earlier in the week his office announced its intention to charge two men with manslaughter of the ten Israeli 18 year olds who died while on a Mechina-led organized hike in the Negev region in April 2018.  It all sounds like a win for the rule of law and accountability.

If only Israel actually had one rule of law.  Unfortunately, if you are American, there is a second set of laws if you are negligently or recklessly killed.  That rule is as follows:  no Israeli will ever be held accountable, arrested, indicted, or ever prosecuted if the victim is an American.  In fact, in the 70 year history of Israel, no Israeli has ever been arrested or prosecuted for the negligent homicide of an American.

Consider Briana McHam of Pompano Beach, Florida, who was 20 years old and a student at Florida State University in 2015.  She went on an organized hike in May 2015 and died on Masada, a victim at least in part to heat-related illness.  The organizers were so reckless and negligent that they didn’t even notice for over an hour she had fallen and was no longer on the hike.  The temperature was over 100 degrees. What did the Israeli police and prosecutors do, given that Briana was American?  Basically nothing, of course. The Israeli government’s contempt for American life is so powerful that even nine months later, her mother Annette Blackwell, had an Israeli death certificate that said for cause of death, “pending lab tests.” Briana was her only child.

Consider Maya Schulder, of Arizona, who was 16 years old in 2016. In June of that year, she went on an organized hike in the Negev and died of hyperthermia/heat stroke and dehydration. What did the Israeli police and prosecutors do in this obvious negligent homicide situation, given that Maya was American? You guessed it. Basically nothing.

Consider the case of Ariel Newman who was 18 years old in 2014.  After graduating from Yeshiva University High School for Boys in New York, he went to Mechinat Yeud which only one week after getting off the airplane took him out on an organized hike in the Judean desert where he was negligently killed due to exertional heat stroke. What did the Israeli police and prosecutors do, given that Ariel was American? Their contempt for American life and the rule of law is so strong they have corrupted the very concept of a homicide investigation and in September 2017 actually ordered the police commander in charge of the entire Negev to stand down and not conduct any serious investigation into Ariel’s negligent homicide despite the amount of objective evidence.

What would that objective evidence be?

1—Joshua Ettinger (the Program Director of Mechinat Yeud and the hike leader) and Rabbi Yaakov Shapira (the Rosh Yeshiva of Mechinat Yeud) knowingly and intentionally made the decision or went along with the decision to change the date of the two-day hike from January 2015 to September 9-10, 2014. By January 2015, Ariel would have been acclimatized to the environment and would have had time to train and develop physically his body and become much better to handle a rigorous hike. [The students were expected to arrive in Israel on September 3, 2014 to begin the Mechinat Yeud program and that’s exactly what Ariel did.] This intentional decision was deadly.

2—Ettinger and Shapira knowingly and intentionally scheduled this hike for only six hours. The Israel Ministry of Education’s own website clearly states that the Nachal Tzeilim to Nachal Mishmar hike takes 8-10 hours, should be hiked only by intermediate to expert hikers, and should never be done in the summertime by anyone. [An official from the Israel Ministry of Tourism has already told the police on the record that this specific hike in the summertime for young men just off the airplane a week prior who have never been on any kind of a serious hike before was completely unreasonable.] This intentional decision to whip the boys into completing a hike of such a rigorous nature, with little rest—on the second day of a two-day hike—was deadly. The recklessness of Ettinger’s and Shapira’s intent is made even more clear when they put in writing that right after that section of the hike was completed the boys were then to hike another two hours up Masada! Ettinger compounds his negligent recklessness by insisting afterwards that the hike was not particularly difficult. This intentional decision was deadly.

3—The night between September 9, 2014 and September 10, 2014, everyone on the hike slept in the outdoors for no more than 2-3 hours due to lots of biting bugs. Literally no one disputes this and everyone acknowledges this. Ettinger therefore knowingly and intentionally insisted on continuing this two-day hike with rank beginner hikers with very little sleep. This intentional decision was deadly.

4—Ettinger saw that Ariel was wearing long black pants. He knowingly and intentionally did not check the material of the pants to see if they can breathe. Ariel was the only person on the hike wearing long black nylon pants that trapped all his body’s heat in the lower half of his body. Ettinger claims that it is not his responsibility to check for clothing but he boasts that he always makes sure on a desert hike all the participants wear a hat. This intentional decision to be and remain indifferent to his actions and inactions was deadly.

5—Ettinger knowingly and intentionally lied about his qualifications to lead a hike for high school graduates visiting from a foreign country. Israeli law requires a Ministry of Tourism tour guide license. He knew he did not have one and Shapira negligently never bothered to check his credentials. Additionally, every organized hike is required to have a leader (or have the hike leader bring someone) with valid medic certification. Ettinger knowingly and intentionally did not have valid medic certification (and neither did anyone else on the hike). Again, he knew he did not have one and Shapira negligently never bothered to check his credentials. Ettinger’s intentional mendacity was deadly.

6—Mechinat Yeud was a member of MASA, an organization jointly created by the Prime Minister’s Office and The Jewish Agency for Israel. MASA had literally only one firm requirement of all its member organizations in respect to hiking: You must coordinate the hike with SPNI (the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel) or any similar organization that coordinates safety and hiking. [After Ariel Yitzchak was negligently killed, MASA revised its By-Laws and now requires specifically and only SPNI be the coordinating organization.] SPNI has already stated on the record that if they were asked, they would have told anyone and everyone without exception that they should not hike in that area on that day from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. due to excessive heat. Ettinger did not coordinate the hike with any safety organization and his defense was that no one told him to do so. This is absurd. At a minimum, Ettinger is admitting therefore that he knowingly and intentionally never asked his superior—Shapira—what rules, procedures, or protocols he must follow when leading a hike. Shapira’s defense is that it is too expensive—150 shekels!—to obey MASA’s rule. Both attitudes perfectly exemplify reckless and negligent behavior with knowledge and intent, even after the fact.

With all of this, it would not be difficult to prove a manslaughter case, just like is being done with the two men who killed the ten Israeli kids.  But Ariel Newman is an American so nothing is happening.  Israel’s Supreme Court, Bagatz, knows all of the above facts and still has not ordered the corrupt Israeli prosecutors to do their job and arrest Ettinger and Shapira for at least negligent homicide.

Why?  Because there are two sets of laws when it comes to negligent/reckless homicide or manslaughter in Israel.  If the victim is an Israeli, you can get justice.  If the victim is an American–well, justice does not exist for you and never has.  Just ask the parents of Briana, Maya, and Ariel.

About the Author
Mark Newman is married to Ellen Newman and together were blessed with raising Ariel Yitzchak a”h for 18 years in Great Neck, NY to love Judaism and Israel. Mark has worked professionally for over three decades in the US Federal government as a civil law enforcement officer.