Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Thieves, Protection, Law and an Email

How's that for a title? 

Every once in a while, a wave of thefts plague our city of Maale Adumim. Most times, it turns out to be the Bedouins, who live in the dry river bed and across the mountain. Sometimes, it is Arabs from nearby neighborhoods and yes, there have been times when it was Jews. The Bedouins have an interesting and simple life, for the most part and there are times in my hectic run to and from one meeting to another, that I almost envy them. A Bedouin once tried to explain his theory of life and theft. According to this kind man who felt hospitality was not just a virtue, but an obligation - we all own things. If he can steal...I mean take...something from you, it is your fault, not his. It isn't theft because if God had not wanted him to have it, he would not have been able to steal...I mean take...it from you.

After a short time of trying to explain my philosophy, I gave up. Different worlds, different philosophies. I also gave up trying to convince a very nice Arab from Hebron that polygamy wasn't right. He asked if I wouldn't prefer my husband to move his second wife in with me, rather than sneak off and cheat somewhere. As I couldn't fathom being one of two (or more) wives, he simply couldn't understand the concept that I'd be handing my incredibly beloved husband the door. In his world, the first wife's only option would be to return in disgrace to her father's home - in my world, the man would walk around with the "first" wife's footprint on his...well, never mind.

Getting back to the Bedouins that have settled around my city. Every once in a while, usually at night, they climb up the mountains to my city and try to enter a house, and, if God lets them, they take whatever they can. For the most part, when Bedouins enter, they rob, but do not harm. They want property. That doesn't mean they can't or won't cause physical harm when confronted, but rather it isn't their intended result.

By contract, when Arabs enter a Jewish home with criminal and/or terrorist intent - as we have learned to our great anguish, it is not possible to predict the outcome. There have been a series of carjackings by Arabs in recent weeks. They have targeted lone women drivers. When they see them, they block the woman's car with another; then smash the windows and pull her out. One woman was injured when she was dragged with the car. Luckily, she was able to separate from the car before more serious injury was caused.

Two weeks ago, there were a series of break-ins in Maale Adumim - including one in my neighborhood - a religious area that is known to be quiet on Fridays and Shabbat. Cars do not travel into, out of, or through the neighborhood unless it is security (or a medical emergency). During the robbery, the thieves took light things - jewelry, money, a child's iPod. The first time it happened, the robbers got away clean. The family returned from eating with neighbors (friends of Aliza) to find they'd been robbed. I do not know what the police know of the identity of the robber. Last week, again on Friday night, the family returned. This time and it was Arabs who were in the process of robbing their home and with a quick call to the police, the Arabs were caught.

Yesterday morning, driving into the city, I checked my email (Elie was driving). One of the main rabbis in our community and the spiritual leader of what I believe is the largest synagogue in our area, a man well loved and respected even by those who attend other synagogues, sent out an email. On the Sabbath, we do not use the telephone, except in what is considered life-threatening circumstances.

To save a life, Judaism takes a very broad definition of life-threatening. For example, few women in today's society - certainly in Israel, face death when giving birth. Prenatal care is almost universally available with our national health care system we pay virtually nothing for the most modern health checkups and facilities. And yet, where there is potential, the law is clear. If a woman goes into labor on the Sabbath - an ambulance is called, a car driven.

My oldest daughter was born on Rosh Hashana - the celebration of the new year. Like the Sabbath, it is a day we do not drive, do not use electricity, money, telephones. I woke in the morning - she was my first. How was I supposed to know that this was really labor? Denial was so much easier. I dressed and told my somewhat surprised husband and mother-in-law that I wanted to go to the synagogue. They probably thought I was insane, but they went along. I sat beside my mother-in-law and every nine or ten minutes tensed up as a cramp distracted me. Was this labor? I didn't care so long as I could pretend that things were normal.

Suddenly, the rabbi of the synagogue, a man who I respected greatly, came into the women's section and called me out. I wondered if I had done something wrong. As soon as we got outside, I saw my wonderful and worried husband standing there - along with three men. Doctors, it seems, that the rabbi had gathered. "Are you in labor?" the rabbi asked me in front of the men.

Leave me alone, I wanted to tell him. "I don't know," I said quietly. "Maybe." I was so embarrassed standing there in what seemed like a world of men.

"What should she do?" he asked the doctors, who universally answered that I should be checked and be in touch with my doctor. I was having none of that. I could go back inside and stand near my mother-in-law and pretend that this birthing thing wasn't going to happen, or I could face reality and these men. Oh, I desperately wanted to go away from them, even my husband who seemed to be nodding proudly.

There is a beautiful tradition on Rosh Hashana to blow the shofar or ram's horn. At the bottom of this post is a beautiful video of someone showing how it sounds. I insisted I'd go call the doctor - AFTER I'd heard the shofar. I'd have promised anything, if they'd leave me alone.

It seems the will of the many was stronger and my body was quite insistent. The rabbi himself insisted on blowing the shofar for me IN HIS OFFICE...NOW...and when that was done and I still hesitated in picking up the phone and calling my doctor on this holy day, the rabbi picked up the phone himself - on Rosh Hashana and dialed the number. It was that moment that made me understand - for pikuach nefesh - the saving of a life, you break Shabbat (or Rosh Hashana). My baby was going to be born and I had to take care of her.

So, what does all this have to do with today's post and the recent thefts? The email addressed the question about whether it is permissible to call the police in the event of a break-in on Shabbat. If you think about it from a simplistic point of view, once the robbers leave the house, is anyone's life in danger? For what purpose would you violate the Sabbath? The email is entitled "Is it permissible to call the police in the event of a break-in?" followed by the rabbi's name.

His answer is clear and unequivocal. I love his answer - but more, I love the fact that he felt it relevant enough to send it to hundreds of people in my neighborhood - I view this as a slice of what my community is like, a slice of Israel, a slice of what it is to be a Jew in a land of Jews.

Here's his note (and the video after that):

Is it permissible to call the police to report a break-in on Shabbat?  Rav Elisha Aviner

Question: Approximately one month ago there was a break-in on Shabbat night in the neighborhood. Last Shabbat night there was an additional attempted break-in. The burglars were Arab. Is it permissible to call the police on Shabbat to report the break-in?
Answer: Not only is it permissible to call the police, but one must report it immediately. The reason is simple: the saving of a life takes precedence over Shabbat. Therefore, it takes precedence not only to make the phone call but also takes precedence in regard to all of the police activity to locate the thieves.
This is a clear ruling in the Shulchan Aruch [called the Code of Jewish Law, an authoritative legal code of Judaism] “In a city that is on the frontier, even if [non-Jews] came only to take (or destroy) property, Shabbat is put aside”. Maale Adumim is “a city that is on the frontier”, surrounded by Arab villages and a hostile population. The Israel Police does not regard break-ins in Maale Adumim by the Arab population as just property crimes, but rather as actions that endanger life. A break-in is liable to end in bodily harm, Heaven forbid. A kitchen knife or iron bar can be used as murder weapon, Heaven forbid. On this there is no dispute. Even if the thief fails to steal and escapes, there is a requirement to capture him in order to prevent additional attempts by him or his conspirators in crime.

Also regarding burglary attempts in the central cities that are not on the frontier, there are great poskim [judges or rabbis that rule on the law] that have instructed that it is permissible to alert the police on Shabbat, lest crime increase on Shabbat and its end will be the endangerment of life. This is the halachic basis for the actions of the police on Shabbat (patrols, etc.). Event those who disagree with this opinion do not doubt that in Maale Adumim, which is on the frontier, there is a full requirement to alert the police immediately for every attempted break-in on Shabbat whether Arab or Beduin.

All of the above is simple and clear, therefore I will not trouble the reader with references to halachic sources and responsa that are based on the above. Anyone interested is invited to turn to me.

The local police is doing its best to capture the thieves and put an end to this phenomena, as I have heard recently from the Commander of the Maale Adumim Police. However the police cannot do this alone, they need the alertness on our part and our immediate reporting of incidents.

We should merit “the One who spreads the sukka of peace upon us and upon all of His people Yisrael” and “Shabbat is relief from anguish”.

How's that for a title?

Every once in a while, a wave of thefts plague our city of Maale Adumim. Most times, it turns out to be the Bedouins, who live in the dry river bed and across the mountain. Sometimes, it is Arabs from nearby neighborhoods and yes, there have been times when it was Jews. The Bedouins have an interesting and simple life, for the most part and there are times in my hectic run to and from one meeting to another, that I almost envy them. A Bedouin once tried to explain his theory of life and theft. According to this kind man who felt hospitality was not just a virtue, but an obligation - we all own things. If he can steal...I mean take...something from you, it is your fault, not his. It isn't theft because if God had not wanted him to have it, he would not have been able to steal...I mean take...it from you.

After a short time of trying to explain my philosophy, I gave up. Different worlds, different philosophies. I also gave up trying to convince a very nice Arab from Hebron that polygamy wasn't right. He asked if I wouldn't prefer my husband to move his second wife in with me, rather than sneak off and cheat somewhere. As I couldn't fathom being one of two (or more) wives, he simply couldn't understand the concept that I'd be handing my incredibly beloved husband the door. In his world, the first wife's only option would be to return in disgrace to her father's home - in my world, the man would walk around with the "first" wife's footprint on his...well, never mind.

Getting back to the Bedouins that have settled around my city. Every once in a while, usually at night, they climb up the mountains to my city and try to enter a house, and, if God lets them, they take whatever they can. For the most part, when Bedouins enter, they rob, but do not harm. They want property. That doesn't mean they can't or won't cause physical harm when confronted, but rather it isn't their intended result.

By contract, when Arabs enter a Jewish home with criminal and/or terrorist intent - as we have learned to our great anguish, it is not possible to predict the outcome. There have been a series of carjackings by Arabs in recent weeks. They have targeted lone women drivers. When they see them, they block the woman's car with another; then smash the windows and pull her out. One woman was injured when she was dragged with the car. Luckily, she was able to separate from the car before more serious injury was caused.

Two weeks ago, there were a series of break-ins in Maale Adumim - including one in my neighborhood - a religious area that is known to be quiet on Fridays and Shabbat. Cars do not travel into, out of, or through the neighborhood unless it is security (or a medical emergency). During the robbery, the thieves took light things - jewelry, money, a child's iPod. The first time it happened, the robbers got away clean. The family returned from eating with neighbors (friends of Aliza) to find they'd been robbed. I do not know what the police know of the identity of the robber. Last week, again on Friday night, the family returned. This time and it was Arabs who were in the process of robbing their home and with a quick call to the police, the Arabs were caught.

Yesterday morning, driving into the city, I checked my email (Elie was driving). One of the main rabbis in our community and the spiritual leader of what I believe is the largest synagogue in our area, a man well loved and respected even by those who attend other synagogues, sent out an email. On the Sabbath, we do not use the telephone, except in what is considered life-threatening circumstances.

To save a life, Judaism takes a very broad definition of life-threatening. For example, few women in today's society - certainly in Israel, face death when giving birth. Prenatal care is almost universally available with our national health care system we pay virtually nothing for the most modern health checkups and facilities. And yet, where there is potential, the law is clear. If a woman goes into labor on the Sabbath - an ambulance is called, a car driven.

My oldest daughter was born on Rosh Hashana - the celebration of the new year. Like the Sabbath, it is a day we do not drive, do not use electricity, money, telephones. I woke in the morning - she was my first. How was I supposed to know that this was really labor? Denial was so much easier. I dressed and told my somewhat surprised husband and mother-in-law that I wanted to go to the synagogue. They probably thought I was insane, but they went along. I sat beside my mother-in-law and every nine or ten minutes tensed up as a cramp distracted me. Was this labor? I didn't care so long as I could pretend that things were normal.

Suddenly, the rabbi of the synagogue, a man who I respected greatly, came into the women's section and called me out. I wondered if I had done something wrong. As soon as we got outside, I saw my wonderful and worried husband standing there - along with three men. Doctors, it seems, that the rabbi had gathered. "Are you in labor?" the rabbi asked me in front of the men.

Leave me alone, I wanted to tell him. "I don't know," I said quietly. "Maybe." I was so embarrassed standing there in what seemed like a world of men.

"What should she do?" he asked the doctors, who universally answered that I should be checked and be in touch with my doctor. I was having none of that. I could go back inside and stand near my mother-in-law and pretend that this birthing thing wasn't going to happen, or I could face reality and these men. Oh, I desperately wanted to go away from them, even my husband who seemed to be nodding proudly.

There is a beautiful tradition on Rosh Hashana to blow the shofar or ram's horn. At the bottom of this post is a beautiful video of someone showing how it sounds. I insisted I'd go call the doctor - AFTER I'd heard the shofar. I'd have promised anything, if they'd leave me alone.

It seems the will of the many was stronger and my body was quite insistent. The rabbi himself insisted on blowing the shofar for me IN HIS OFFICE...NOW...and when that was done and I still hesitated in picking up the phone and calling my doctor on this holy day, the rabbi picked up the phone himself - on Rosh Hashana and dialed the number. It was that moment that made me understand - for pikuach nefesh - the saving of a life, you break Shabbat (or Rosh Hashana). My baby was going to be born and I had to take care of her.

So, what does all this have to do with today's post and the recent thefts? The email addressed the question about whether it is permissible to call the police in the event of a break-in on Shabbat. If you think about it from a simplistic point of view, once the robbers leave the house, is anyone's life in danger? For what purpose would you violate the Sabbath? The email is entitled "Is it permissible to call the police in the event of a break-in?" followed by the rabbi's name.

His answer is clear and unequivocal. I love his answer - but more, I love the fact that he felt it relevant enough to send it to hundreds of people in my neighborhood - I view this as a slice of what my community is like, a slice of Israel, a slice of what it is to be a Jew in a land of Jews.

Here's his note (and the video after that):
Is it permissible to call the police to report a break-in on Shabbat? Rav Elisha Aviner
Question:
Approximately one month ago there was a break-in on Shabbat night in the neighborhood. Last Shabbat night there was an additional attempted break-in. The burglars were Arab. Is it permissible to call the police on Shabbat to report the break-in? 
Answer:
Not only is it permissible to call the police, but one must report it immediately. The reason is simple: the saving of a life takes precedence over Shabbat. Therefore, it takes precedence not only to make the phone call but also takes precedence in regard to all of the police activity to locate the thieves. 
This is a clear ruling in the Shulchan Aruch [called the Code of Jewish Law, an authoritative legal code of Judaism] “In a city that is on the frontier, even if [non-Jews] came only to take (or destroy) property, Shabbat is put aside”. Maale Adumim is “a city that is on the frontier”, surrounded by Arab villages and a hostile population. The Israel Police does not regard break-ins in Maale Adumim by the Arab population as just property crimes, but rather as actions that endanger life. 
A break-in is liable to end in bodily harm, Heaven forbid. A kitchen knife or iron bar can be used as murder weapon, Heaven forbid. On this there is no dispute. Even if the thief fails to steal and escapes, there is a requirement to capture him in order to prevent additional attempts by him or his conspirators in crime.
Also regarding burglary attempts in the central cities that are not on the frontier, there are great poskim [judges or rabbis that rule on the law] that have instructed that it is permissible to alert the police on Shabbat, lest crime increase on Shabbat and its end will be the endangerment of life. This is the halachic basis for the actions of the police on Shabbat (patrols, etc.). Event those who disagree with this opinion do not doubt that in Maale Adumim, which is on the frontier, there is a full requirement to alert the police immediately for every attempted break-in on Shabbat whether Arab or Bedouin. 
All of the above is simple and clear, therefore I will not trouble the reader with references to halachic sources and responsa that are based on the above. Anyone interested is invited to turn to me. 
The local police is doing its best to capture the thieves and put an end to this phenomena, as I have heard recently from the Commander of the Maale Adumim Police. However the police cannot do this alone, they need the alertness on our part and our immediate reporting of incidents.
We should merit “the One who spreads the sukka [canopy] of peace upon us and upon all of His people Yisrael” and “Shabbat is relief from anguish”.

8 comments:

Mindy S. said...

Hi,
I,too, am a soldier's mother but -other than that- it seems we have very little in common. I find your comments about Arabs and Bedouins to be offensive and judgmental. And your ridicule of Islamic law regarding polygamy indicates that you may be rather ignorant even when it comes to Halacha, according to which polygamy was permitted and practiced among Eastern Jews until modern times.
Perhaps I'm wrong and you're more generous of heart and spirit than you seem. I hope so.
At any rate, I wish you a Happy Purim. May God protects our sons, and all of Israel's soldiers, and may we all live to see an era of peaceful co-existence with our neighbors.

A Soldier's Mother said...

Hi Mindy,

Thanks for commenting. Allow me to respond to a few points:

1. Regarding the Bedouins - I find their culture an interesting blend of wonderful and peculiar. They are among the most hospitable people - but yes, they do have a "peculiar" logic when it comes to the concept of theft. I have spoken with several Bedouins and had discussions in which they explained that they are not really stealing with they take other people's property. They were not offended when I explained the "western" philosophy of property ownership, so I'm not sure why you are offended. As for the Arabs and Islamic rule - your "until modern times" is not exactly correct. The rabbinic ruling against polygamy for European (i.e. Ashkenazi) Jews is over 1,000 years old. I don't consider that modern. In fact, there was debate about how to go about "renewing" the ruling, as we no longer have "THE" rabbinic authority as compared to when it was established. You are correct that up until the establishment of the State of Israel and the in-gathering of hundreds of thousands of Sephardic Jews, the practice of having multiple wives was well established and thus in 1948 when the State was founded, there was an intense (and amusing at times) debate about which practice to follow.

Yes, halacha does allow of polygamy, and no, I'm not ignorant of that fact. If the post was condescending regarding the Arab practice, I do apologize. It was an interesting and depressing conversation I had with this Arab from Hebron. It was not just that he had two wives, but he referred to one as "the pathetic one" - she was the one he'd married 20+ years ago and had given him his sons (I assume and his daughters, but they didn't rate a mention). He was trying to explain how fair he was being to the pathetic one that he agreed to sleep with her on alternate nights with the new, young, 18-year-old, blonde Russian woman who became his second wife.

He was trying to explain to me how ...what was the word he used...something like kind...in that it commanded him to alternate fairly between the young one and the pathetic one.

Since his pathetic one has birthed the same number of children as I have (and is three years younger), perhaps the discussion bothered me more than it should have.

I try very hard not to ridicule Islam but in two very important areas, I find it difficult to accept. One is in the sanctification of death and the concept of Jihad, and the second is, indeed, the concept of polygamy.

Once it was almost globally accepted - I am well aware of that. The difference is that some cultures have moved beyond that, and others have not. And yes, I believe the concept of monogamy to be a step beyond - and yes, that is a judgment. But if I am to commit my life and my love to my husband, I would expect (and gratefully have received), his life and love in return.

Anyway - Chag Purim Samayah and oh yes, May God protect all our sons and help us reach the era of peace with our neighbors - those that live upstairs and next door...and those who live across the wadi and across the border.

AliasJoe said...

Excellent response, Paula.

But I am interested in just how the Bedouins rationalize taking property as not being stealing. Can you elaborate? I'm familiar with the native American Indians' philosophy that no one owns the land, but I have a harder time translating that concept into personal property like money, cars, jewels, electronics, etc.

Happy Purim.
Joe

A Soldier's Mother said...

As it was explained to me - you own something, so long as you keep it. If you allow it to be stolen (through weakness, carelessness, whatever), than it isn't yours and, if it isn't yours, it wasn't stolen from you.

I asked a Bedouin many years ago why he had three clock radios on his shelf. His answer was that he liked them. The guide who took us around explained that they were, in all likelihood, stolen and was the first to explain the concept to me.

There are things about other cultures that you have to accept as acceptable to them - even if they differ from your own. This is true of many things in the Arab world, the Bedouin world, the Jewish world, the Christian world, etc.

It is most difficult when you have a philosophy that runs counter to someone else's and yes, includes some element of judging. Yes, we believe stealing is wrong and so find it hard to understand when another culture doesn't find it wrong.

Another example - many cultures believe lying to someone is wrong. In Islam, it is perfectly acceptable to lie to an infidel. I don't want to be seen as being offensive or judgmental, but this is a fact of Islam. Mohammed is revered for many reasons - including his lying to an enemy, who was a non-Muslim.

Anonymous said...

Specifically where are these car jackings taking place? I often travel the roads solo and do not carry any protection.

Anonymous said...

Re Islam - for the Beduin are entirely Muslim and the Arabs, except for a few Christians, also almost entirely Muslim.

I have encountered Islamic texts that give the clear impression that Muslims believe that the entire world and everything in it - including the persons and property of all non-Muslims - is theirs by right; so, when they take the property of a non-Muslim, when they kidnap and rape the daughter or wife of a non-Muslim man, well, they see themselves as repossessing their own allah-ordained property. If they can take it and get away with doing so - if they feel strong enough, or clever enough - then that is fine. In Pakistan and Egypt Muslims will kidnap and rape and 'marry' non-Muslim married women: sex with the wife of a non-Muslim man is not adultery, because sharia holds that the moment the Muslim man grabs her, her utterly meaningless non-Muslim marriage vows are dissolved. How convenient!

Ali Sina, an apostate from Islam who runs the 'Faith freedom' website, has explained that Islam simply does not teach the Golden Rule. Surah 48: 29 of the Quran says flatly that Muslims are 'harsh' (or cruel, or stern) to the unbelievers, but compassionate only amongst themselves. Whatever Mohammedans can get away with vis a vis the Infidels, is fine: up to and including mass murder if that's possible and will advance the power of the Ummah.

As for lying: precisely because Mohammedans are supposed to be permanently at war upon the dirty unbelievers, they are allowed to lie and pretend to be nice to said unbelievers if the unbelievers happen momentarily to be too strong to be subdued - 'war is deceit'. Google taqiyya, kitman, and tawriya, just for starters: Coptic American scholar Raymond Ibrahim, who is fluent in Arabic, has done some very illuminating articles on the all-pervasiveness of deception in Islam, especially in Muslim dealings with non-Muslims. One article was 'How Taqiyya Alters Islam's Rules of War'. It's all about smiling sweetly and deceiving the unsuspecting intended victim...whilst preparing the knife that will be shoved between their shoulder blades.

This sounds harsh, but it can all be demonstrated in abundance from their own texts - and their observable behaviour over time.

rivkayael said...

I'm Sephardi and often tease my Ashkenazi husband about taking another wife. He says that one wife is exhausting enough and he doesn't get how the other guys do it. Jewish women are pretty feisty...

Independent Patriot said...

I loved your story about Rosh Hashana and how stubborn you were. I was actually born on Rosh Hashana too and my mother is just as stubborn as you. While it is permitted as you say to drive to the hospital on shabbat and holy days when a woman is in labor, my mother becasue it was Rosh Hashana insisted on walking to the hospital from her parents home.It seems to me that it is that stubbornness that keeps us Jews alive throughout the eons. Here's to never changing.

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