I have always admired the famous saying leyt din v’leyt dayan (“There is no justice and no judge”), which I first heard attributed to the great Hasidic Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Kotsk. It actually originated with the controversial Talmudic sage, Elisha ben Abuya, who saw a young boy climb a tree to retrieve eggs from a bird’s nest. In an attempt to ease the mother bird’s sorrow, before stealing her eggs he shooed her away and, in the process he fell and died. The death disturbed Abuya, since he could not understand how God would allow a child to die while honoring the commandment to shield a mother from the pain of seeing her own offspring torn from her. This incident is reputed to have shaken him and his faith to the core and led to his subsequent apostasy.
Despite the its ancient origins, I’ve always found the statement terribly modern, full of rebellion and questioning of God’s providence. This certainly is the case with 10 year old Abir Aramin, murdered by the Israeli border police (see previous posts on the case) on her way to take a grade school examination in an Israeli Arab village. Abir’s case became notorious because her father has dedicated his life to breaking down barriers between warriors on each side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through Combatants for Peace, a group including ex-fighters from both sides who’ve renounced violence in an effort to bridge the gap through peace.
Yesterday, hundreds of Israeli Jewish and Arab protesters gathered to protest a recent government ruling that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute anyone for Abir’s murder:
Police detained seven people during a demonstration held outside the Jerusalem District Court Wednesday in protest of the decision to close the investigation into the death of a Palestinian girl killed last January. Officers said the protesters attempted to break into the building.
Ten-year-old Abir Aramin of Anata…was critically wounded on January 16 during a clash between Palestinian school students and Israeli Border Guard officers in the refugee camp. She lay clinically dead at the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem for three days as doctors fought for her life, but was then taken off life support.
Last week prosecutors told the girl’s family that the investigation would be closed due to “lack of sufficient evidence”.
Yanai Yisraeli, 26, of Tel Aviv said after the rally, “It cannot be that a 10-year-old girl takes a bullet, it is proven that she was killed, and still no one is found guilty.”
“We consider this decision to be racist.”
According to human rights group Yesh Din, eyewitnesses said the Palestinian girl was hit after Border Guard officers pointed their rifles toward her.
Neither the family, nor any of the protesters were under any illusion that the government decision would have been any different than it was since almost all Border Police or IDF soldiers prosecutions result from international pressure and embarrassment. The killers of James Miller may be prosecuted and the killer of Tom Hurndall was successfully prosecuted. But only because of British government pressure. When Israeli Arabs or Palestinians are killed in cold blood it will be a cold day in summer when you see anyone in the security forces held responsible.
That a miscarriage of justice has occurred in the Aramin case is almost indisputable based on news coverage of the incident which I’ve written about extensively here. Do not let Abir’s memory die. Do not let the spirit of nonviolent resistance to Occupation die.
Returning to the Abuya midrash. It’s instructive to recall the tragic circumstance that motivated his original statement:
In the Torah it is written that the reward for obeying your parents is that your days will be lengthened. It also says that the reward for chasing the mother bird out of the nest before taking the eggs is that your days will be lengthened. One day Elisha b. Abuyya, a great scholar and rabbi , saw a father tell his son to climb a tree and fetch some eggs. The boy did exactly that, and chased the mother bird away first—obeying two commandments at the same time, both of which promise long life. While he was in the midst of obeying these two seemingly life-extending commandments, he fell to his death.
Not able to withstand his rage and pain at such an injustice, Abuya made his famously lacertated comment about divine indifference to human suffering. If Abuya’s spirit were alive today he would be speaking the same words over the death of little Abir and Israel’s refusal to hold anyone accountable.