Text size

Julian Soufir wants to be let out. He doesn't even understand why he's being kept at the Abarbanel Mental Hospital. He says he's recovered and feels fine. His doctors say he has made progress and should be released in a few months. But he already wants to be put in less restrictive conditions and immediately afterward be granted parole. After all, Passover is the holiday of freedom and all he did was kill an Arab.

In May 2007 Soufir decided to murder an Arab. He hated them with all his being. He hated how joyful and passionate they were about Friday prayers at the Dome of the Rock, the same place as our Temple Mount.

Soufir immigrated from France and served in the Israel Defense Forces. He passed the army medical examinations without showing any indications of mental illness. But after a short time in the military he started saying he wanted to kill Arabs and therefore was released. Shortly before the murder he threatened to kill his wife and was sent for observation at Abarbanel, but he was given a clean bill of health and released.

He wanted to kill an Arab - any Arab. So he stopped a taxi in Jerusalem, hoping the driver would be an Arab. But he was Jewish. The driver of the second taxi was also Jewish. On his third try he stopped a taxi driven by an Arab, a man named Taysir Karaki. He asked him to drive him to Netanya, where he grabbed a long kitchen knife from his brother's apartment. Then he told Karaki to take him to his apartment in Tel Aviv. When he got there he invited him to come upstairs. "I'll make coffee and pay you," he promised. Karaki agreed and went inside, where Soufir stabbed him 24 times.

A few hours later Soufir told his interrogators that he felt nothing when he stabbed Karaki in the back and throat and that it was like "slaughtering an animal, because an animal has no soul." He felt no guilt about killing Karaki. The man's wife and five children were left without a husband, a father and a breadwinner, but Soufir wasn't concerned by that for a second.

What would have happened if it were the other way around, if an Arab had killed a Jewish taxi driver in cold blood? Would anyone dare consider declaring him unfit to stand trial and send him home? First they would raze his house, then interrogate his family on suspicions of assisting, and finally he would be thrown in prison.

But last month, the panel of judges led by Sara Dotan ruled Julian Soufir was not fit for trial and would therefore not be jailed. She read the ruling quickly and quietly, so much so that those who attended the reading could barely hear a word. This may have been a sign that she felt uncomfortable with the ruling. It took several minutes for the Karakis to understand that Soufir had been declared "crazy," and when they did, they began to wail.

The problem with the ruling is that Soufir knew very well what he was doing. He was sane enough to pick an Arab driver instead of a Jewish one. He knew what kind of knife to take from his brother's house and how to lure Karaki to his apartment, where he murdered him in cold blood.

It is clear he could differentiate between right and wrong. He chose not to take his own life - is that not sign enough that he was sufficiently sane to stand trial? Instead, he was declared "insane" and is now waiting to start a new life in Paris.

A series of shootings have recently plagued the United States. One gunman killed 13 immigrants in Binghamton and committed suicide. Another killed eight in a suburb near Omaha and then shot himself dead. A student shot five of his friends at Northern Illinois University before killing himself. They really could not tell between right and wrong - they ended up killing themselves. But Soufir could distinguish between his own fate and that of the Arab driver.