By Ilana Messika
The Jerusalem District Court on Wednesday sentenced a resident of Abu Dis, in eastern Jerusalem, to 35 years in prison and half a million shekels in compensation for assisting a 2015 stabbing attack in the Old City that killed two Jews.
Awad al-Azim Meri, originally from Hebron, encouraged Mohannad Shafiq al-Halabi to carry out the attack on Shabbat, October 3, 2015, and provided al-Halabi with the knife he used to kill two Israelis, Aaron Bennett and Nehamia Lavie, and to wound two others. Adele Bennett, Aaron’s wife, was also seriously injured and their toddler was lightly wounded.
Nehamia Lavi, a rabbi at the Ateret Cohanim Yeshiva in the Muslim Quarter, heard the initial attack that was taking place just 10 yards from his door, grabbed his weapon and headed out to help the victims. He succeeded in hurting the terrorist and grabbing his gun before the terrorist had managed to stab him.
“The feelings here are conflicted, because on the one hand, in the framework of the legal limitations I understand that we received the maximum that we could,” said Nehamia Lavie’s widow, Neta Lavie. “I can attest that the struggle of day-to-day life and the repercussions of this double homicide cannot be contemplated,” she added, suggesting that with a truly just sentence, “such a man should never again see the light of day. But today has provided some closure and relief.”
Following the attack, Meri posted on Facebook a picture of himself with the killer with the caption: “My praises to the Shahid.”
According to the verdict, “the main operation was not perpetrated by Meri but by al-Halabi, who cruelly killed two people and wounded two others for the sole reason that they were Jewish. However, if not for the physical assistance and emotional support he provided al-Halabi, the attack would not have happened.”
“The accused fulfilled a substantial and active role in a criminal enterprise with the goal to kill Jews,” said the court.
Tirza Levy, Nehamia’s mother, said, “I attended each and every hearing of the court in order to be the representative of my son, and my family accompanied me throughout, and there definitely is closure in my opinion. I think we can be satisfied with the verdict and the prosecution’s work.”
“As a citizen of Israel, I have seen the consequences of terrorists’ release in government deals and I urge this government and the future ones to make sure that a terrorist who is incarcerated should not have reason to hope to be released,” she added, concluding that “there is a specific deterring power in such a verdict that we need in order for [the terrorists] to fear prison [and stop their activities]. No Israeli government should cause this deterrence to dissolve.”