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When the killers go home

Wondering if his son's murderer had been among the released prisoners, would he be tempted to take justice into his own hands?

As the final preparations are made tonight for the release of the first wave of terrorists, my thoughts are with my friends and acquaintances who are reliving some of the worst pain they have ever felt. At least I know that the vicious terrorist who took my son’s life five years ago at Mercaz HaRav has lost his, stopped in his terrible rampage by a valiant soldier and a brave civilian. I have been spared the agony of wondering how my son’s killer has been faring—in prison, or on the run from justice.

And too, I have been spared the agony of wondering what I would do if my son’s killer was to be among those freed as a sweetener in the current round of negotiations. No, I will never need to scan the media for the news of his release, nor petition the courts against it. Nor must I ever hope the hope of the simple, that prison had somehow tempered his murderous zeal. And best of all, I will never have to wonder whether the terrible knowledge that the little justice that we dare do has been erased could tempt me to settle accounts come undone.

Would I, like the terrorist who murdered my first-born, procure a weapon and gather my intelligence? Would I park and watch the comings and goings of my target? Would I train in the Judean hills, shooting, loading, shooting again, secure that the noises were too difficult to accurately trace?

And when I left on my mission, what would I tell my three living children? Would I kiss them goodbye or leave unannounced? And what would I tell my son’s murderer when I found him? Would I ask my friend from IDF intelligence for a few Arabic lessons before starting off—you know, just enough so that I could be sure he knew who it was who had come to end his life. “Ana abu Ibrahim Daud Musa, I am the father of Avraham David Moses.” I’m sure that during his time in our prisons, with the free newspapers and radio, he would have learned the names of his eight young victims.

And would he care? Might he acknowledge that blood calls for blood—that brutal murder cannot go unpunished? Might he even welcome the bullet which would open the door to his own vision of the hereafter?

And afterwards, when I sat with the police and informed them that “Yes, justice had been done,” what would they say? As they placed me in handcuffs, would they know that what I told them was true? Would I see relief on the detective’s face, knowing that this terrorist, set free in the horrid calculus of “peace talks”, would never kill again?

I am too glad that I need not trouble myself with all these tortured imaginings in the days and weeks to come. But I know that the dozens of families whose lives have been torn asunder by terrorists who will soon be walking away from prison, will once again lay awake at night and agonize over the meaning of justice in the Middle East.

About the Author
Naftali Moses, born in NYC, has lived in Israel for over 30 years. He holds a PhD in medical history from Bar-Ilan University, and teaches and writes on the nexus of medicine and Judaism. The author of "Really Dead?" and "Mourning Under Glass", he has also translated several books on Jewish thought into English, published on philosophy in the Mishna, and aggadah.
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