ZAKA Rescue Volunteers Consult Rabbinic Ruling Following Temple Mount Terror Attack

“Deliver them that are drawn unto death; and those that are ready to be slain wilt thou forbear to rescue?” Proverbs 24:11 (The Israel Bible™)

Friday’s murderous terror attack on the Temple Mount, which left two Druze policemen dead, not only shocked the Holy Land but also raised unique questions of Jewish law after three terrorists were killed on the holy site.

The attack began when three terrorists first shot and killed two Israeli policemen near the Lion’s Gate in the Old City. The assailants then escaped to the Waqf-controlled Temple Mount, where a gun battle ensued. The terrorists were killed there, on the holiest site of the Jewish people.

The ZAKA Search and Rescue team, always one of the first on the scene of a tragedy or terror attack, immediately rushed to the Old City to try to save the lives of the police officers, but both tragically died from their wounds. Their bodies were taken for burial. The ZAKA team’s next obligation was to remove the terrorists’ bodies from the Temple Mount.

The removal of the bodies from that holy place lead to a unique challenge for ZAKA’s religious volunteers. Jews who ascend the Temple Mount are subject to a number of ritual strictures. They must first spiritually purify themselves before entering, and they are forbidden to wear shoes. Additionally, there are religious opinions that Jews should not enter the holy site at all.

However, ZAKA, known in Israel and internationally for its outstanding humanitarian aid, obligates itself to care for those in need and properly dispose of remains if necessary. To confront the complex problems of doing its work on the Temple Mount, ZAKA consulted its Rabbinical Council. The ZAKA team was advised that Jewish law decrees that all remains, even those of terrorists, must be handled with respect and sent for burial.

In order for the ZAKA volunteers to fulfill the dual obligations to the Israeli police for assistance with evacuating the terrorists’ bodies and to the Torah’s commandments to honor the dead and keep the Temple Mount sacred, two volunteers immersed in a mikveh (a ritual bath) and removed their shoes before entering the holy area. Additional volunteers waited outside the Temple Mount compound to complete their work and evacuate the bodies in ZAKA ambulances.  

“This is the greatness of ZAKA – our volunteers treat the deceased regardless of religion, race or nationality,” ZAKA Chairman Yehuda Meshi-Zahav shared in a statement concerning the the difficulties that ZAKA volunteers face, especially with regard to terror attacks. “Dealing with the bodies of the terrorists, alongside those of their victims is a challenge. [Yet], it is written: ‘Man was created in the image of God.’ It is not written Jew or Gentile, rather that every man was created in His image. There are incidents, like today, that lead to the absurd situation where we deal with the bodies of the victims and the terrorists, albeit with teeth gritted. The only difference we make is with the use of black body bags for the murderers, rather than the white ZAKA body bags for the victims.”

The murdered police officers, Staff Sgt. Maj. Ha’il Satawi, 30, a new father to a three-week-old son, and Staff Sgt. Maj. Kamil Shnaan, 22, were laid to rest on Sunday in their hometowns. Thousands of mourners attended the funerals, including numerous government officials.

In attendance were Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh, Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan, Labor Party Chairman Avi Gabbay, Opposition Chairman Yitzhak Herzog, Minister of Education Naftali Bennett and MK Amir Peretz.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated, “This is a sad day in which our brothers from the Druze community pay the heaviest price in our joint mission to defend the security of our country. I salute them and their heroism, and their memory will always be preserved in our hearts.”

Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh said at Satawi’s funeral, “You served in the most sensitive place in the world, in order to preserve freedom of worship. There, vile people decided to thwart this right.”

Through tears, Kamil’s father, former MK Shachiv Shnaan, said, “I am proud of my son, who is here wrapped in the flag of the country…Enough of the crying and tears. It is my prayer that the rifle is replaced with the flower.”

Mourners Follow Sgt. Maj. Kamil Shnaan’s Body to Burial

The Islamic Waqf has been in charge of the Temple mount since it was liberated during the Six Day War. Since then, Jews have been continually persecuted at the hands of violent Muslims upon ascending the Mount even though the Israeli Supreme Court has ruled nearly two dozen times that the Temple Mount must be open for all denominations to visit and pray there. The Temple Mount is the holiest site in the world to the Jewish people and only the third holiest site for Islam.

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