Judaism: No Compromise With Murder

We just read this in the Parsha (Numbers 35:31 – 35):

כל מכה נפש לפי עדים ירצח את הרצח ועד אחד לא יענה בנפש למות:

ולא תקחו כפר לנפש רצח אשר הוא רשע למות כי מות יומת:

ולא תקחו כפר לנוס אל עיר מקלטו לשוב לשבת בארץ עד מות הכהן:

ולא תחניפו את הארץ אשר אתם בה כי הדם הוא יחניף את הארץ ולארץ לא יכפר לדם אשר שפך בה כי אם בדם שפכו:

ולא תטמא את הארץ אשר אתם ישבים בה אשר אני שכן בתוכה כי אני ידוד שכן בתוך בני ישראל:

Here is Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan’s English translation.

This is what NOT to do (from present-day Syria):

The calm is astounding given the fact that it is simple for people to arm themselves. It is easier than ever to kill someone should one so desire, and it has become virtually impossible to hold criminals accountable without risking a blood feud. There are no police, and even if there were, it is no longer possible to call them. Not that a trustworthy judicial system existed under Assad, but there was a state. Today, there is merely a fragile balance that can be disturbed at any time. Everything must be negotiated. The authorities have been replaced by personal relationships and village solidarity.

When a young man was found beaten to death near Korin in May 2014, the 10-person village council — elected out of a pool made up of a representative from each family — began investigating to the extent that it could. Who was the last person to see the victim and had somebody been with him? One witness had seen him in an argument with two distant cousins. The two confessed, but that was only the beginning of the problems. How could a blood feud be avoided?

“We referred the case to the Sharia court in the city of Binnish,” Ajini explains. “It has a good reputation in the entire province” because it is home to one of the region’s ablest judges. Ajini says the court is not a practitioner of the strict Islamic jurisprudence often associated with Sharia, but the label, he adds, increases people’s acceptance of its verdicts.

The murder case was a difficult one. A prison sentence was not possible because are are no prisons and the death penalty could have torn the village apart. So the court negotiated a compromise in the form of 7 million Syrian pounds of blood money, equivalent at the time to roughly €32,000. It was a fortune, and the family of the perpetrator had to sell gold and land to be able to pay it. Furthermore, the two murderers were forbidden from entering the village for a year.

Uh uh.

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