Ayala Shapira was the 11 year old Israeli girl who was terribly injured in December 2014 by a Molotov cocktail (i.e., a firebomb) thrown by Palestinian terrorists at the family car.

She suffered horrific burns to her face and upper body, and was more dead than alive for a while.

I covered the details of the attack and recovery in my prior post here at Legal Insurrection, This child #WasBurnedAlive in West Bank, but you probably never heard of her:

11 year-old Ayala Shapira was travelling in the car with her father Avner late at night on her way home from a class for gifted children to their home in the settlement of Maale Shomron in Samaria.

A firebomb thrown by two Palestinians hiding at the side of the road not only hit the car, but smashed through the window and landed directly on Ayala, causing her to catch fire. Her father stopped the car and Ayala had the presence of mind to throw herself on the ground and roll on the floor to put out the flames. They were in a deserted spot about a kilometer from their home and help was slow in coming so Avner picked Ayala up in his arms and carried her home to wait for the emergency services.Ayala was critically injured and fought for her life for several days.

Miraculously, she began to recover and within a relatively short time she was transferred from the ICU to a regular ward and then to rehab, which is where she still is even now, over 6 months later.  She is allowed home for weekends and for bat mitzvah parties since she is in her bat mitzvah year.

As I wrote at the time, Ayala made a miraculous recovery, and while plans for a joint Bat mitzvah party with one of her best friends (my granddaughter Noa) had to be cancelled, she nevertheless celebrated her Bat mitzvah in style, and then attended Noa’s party too.

[Ayala with her parents and one of her sisters at her Bat Mitzvah (Photo: Moti Yair)]

Ayala Shapira at my granddaughter’s Batmitzvah (photo credit: Tzuriel Zoldan)But it’s not all parties and fun, far from it. Ayala still suffers from her burns, she has endured many operations and skin grafts, and will have to undergo still many more until she is completely rehabilitated.  She has to wear a pressure mask on her face and hands for much of the time as well.

Stoicism in the face of terrible suffering

Ayala has shown remarkable courage and stoicism in coping with the terrible pain and disfigurement, as well as her missing schoolwork and social life. Her friends  and her parents’ friends, family and community have been fantastic in helping out, whether practically or giving moral support, and of course the State has given the support that it gives to all victims of terrorism in Israel. Yet none of this compensates for the damage done.
https://twitter.com/ShaharAzani/status/846898479125315587

In a remarkable display of maturity, Ayala recently addressed the Friends of Judea and Samaria Caucus of the European Parliament, recounting the attack and the story of her not-yet-finished recovery, stressing that she is determined to continue her life as normally as possible. Prof. Jacobson covered that story here:

Arutz Sheva has Ayala’s statement:

I am Ayala, almost fourteen. I live in El Matan in the Shomron; I like to read, write stories and draw. I would like to describe to you what it feels like to have a terrorist attack directed at you.

The truth is, at the moment it happened I didn’t really understand what was happening. I saw a ball of light coming towards us. My father quickly stepped on the brakes. The ball of light shattered my window and landed between us. It was a Molotov cocktail. I remember that everything around us was burning. I thought I was going to die.

Afterwards, I started to act. I tried to open my door, but wasn’t able to. I was sure that the central door lock had melted in the heat, but then, my father opened the door from the other side. My entire left side was on fire, but I couldn’t free my seat belt with my left hand, so I put my right hand into the flames, too. Then, I just started running. My father told me to roll around on the road to put out the fire burning me.

Only then did I begin to feel pain. I told my father that his shirt was also on fire and I asked him to also roll around on the road, but he didn’t stop. He wanted to save me first.

You can read the rest of her account of her horrifying ordeal at the link.

http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/yaalon-el-matan-firebomb-terrorists-captured/2014/12/26/

[Photo Credit: Tazpit News Agency]

And yet, despite her injuries and suffering, Ayala maintains an incredibly positive and even optimistic view of her future, as she said after her speech at the EU:

“I can’t say, ‘I want to be beautiful,’ because it means that today I’m not beautiful, and that’s not true. Of course there are people who are much prettier than me, like my sister Yiska, who is just perfect, but external beauty is not everything in life,” she said.

Alaya required four skin transplants so far and months of rehabilitation following her injuries.

“I can not be exposed to the sun, so I wear a hat over the mask,” she said.

She must continue to wear the mask until she stops growing.

Ayala is currently focused on her studies, but she already has plans for later in life. “I guess I’ll go to National Service. I want to write, to be a writer. I have many sources of inspiration, and of course I dream of a family with as many children as possible.”

Arutz Sheva columnist and best-selling author Jack Engelhard heard of Ayala’s ambitions while she was convalescing and told her he would be glad to help her realize it, sending her one of his books in the meanwhile.

After Ayala’s speech, her mother Ruth castigated the Europeans for funding the terrorists through the aid that they give to the Palestinians, which is then used not for construction of homes, schools and hospitals, but for paying salaries to the families of terrorists who were killed or imprisoned by Israel:

While our lives changed, the lives of the terrorists’ families changed, too. They receive a salary every month from The Palestinian Authority- a reward for their terrorist attacks. This is money they receive from you, from the countries of the European Union, who transfer hundreds of millions of Euros a year to the Palestinian Authority without any supervision.

By doing so, the countries that this Parliament represents, cause the murder of Israelis. All of this is enabled by the European taxpayer. Hundreds of millions of Euros are transferred annually from the European Union to the Palestinian Authority, which finances, among other groups, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Organization, schools named after terrorists who murdered children, schools calling for terror, and others.

I call out to you, members of the European Parliament, members of the Group of Friends of Judea and Samaria – to stop this kafkaesque absurdity; to stop the encouragement of killing and destroying families done by the countries this House represents.

The European representatives can no longer claim ignorance. Alongside Ayala stand, waiting for your determined reaction: The Fogel Family, a father, a mother, a baby and two children murdered in their beds on a Friday night, and whose murderers’ blood-stained hands receive a monthly financial reward for this murder – from you; the four people who were murdered while out with their friends and families in the Sarona compound in Tel Aviv – only because they were Jews; the thirty people murdered while celebrating the Passover seder night in the Park Hotel in Netanya, and thousands of other Israeli terror victims (may G-D avenge their blood) and their families. The thousands of children and families whose addition to the circle of bereavement you can prevent.

Crime and Punishment

This impassioned speech of Ruth’s brings us to this week’s events. The terrorists who threw the firebomb were arrested shortly after the attack, and this week the adult terrorist (the second was a minor) Muhammad Badwan, was sentenced in court to 18 years in prison and fined NIS 50,000 ($14,200) for the attack.

The terrorist who threw a Molotov Cocktail at a vehicle in an attack that inflicted severe burns on Ayala Shapira when she was just 11 years old in December 2014 was sentenced to 18 years in prison on Tuesday by a military court.

Mohammed Badwan, who carried out the attack that left Ayala badly scarred on her body and face, was also ordered to pay compensation of NIS 50,000

Badwan was convicted of attempting to murder Ayala and her father by throwing the Molotov Cocktail at their vehicle while it was travelling. He was also convicted for another incident which occurred a month earlier in which he hurled a Molotov Cocktail at another vehicle being driven by an Israeli woman. Fortunately, the woman was not hurt in the attack.

NOTE: The woman driver mentioned above was Ayala’s mother Ruth!

Badwan was arrested on the same day as his attack. A 14-year-old who helped him commit the crime and at the time was considered a minor, was convicted last year and sentenced to 14 years in prison.

If you think that 18 years and a paltry fine is not enough for this attempted murder, you are not alone.

But it is not only the sentence that is infuriating the Shapiras and their supporters. It is the confused response of the Israeli government, that can’t decide whether this attack is a criminal offense or an act of war (which is what terrorism essentially is) which is angering not only them, but all victims of terrorism and their supporters, and probably most Israelis.

Below is an open letter written by Ruth Shapira explaining her thoughts and reactions, (you can read the original letter in Hebrew here) which I translated myself with her permission. (Originally posted at my own blog).

Letter from Ruth Shapira: Why I didn’t go to court to see the terrorist sentenced

[Translated by Anne in Petach Tikva]

Please share and distribute as much as possible.

After the sentence of the terrorist, I sent an article to all the media outlets in Israel. Unfortunately most of the media are not built for serious articles and therefore the article was cut and distorted. I would be happy for your assistance in distributing the original article:

So why did not I go to court?

Today, the trial ended of one of the two terrorists who threw firebomb that turned our lives upside down.

The defendant admitted to the court two incidents of throwing Molotov cocktails – the first lightly damaged our family car, and the second almost killed Ayala, my eldest daughter.

We often hear from families of victims of crime who came to court to “look the defendant in the eye.” We chose not to come.

The reason for this, we feel, is that the state has not really decided whether this is a specific criminal incident or an event on a national level.

On the one hand, the state recognizes us as victims of hostile acts, finances for us for the (very expensive) medical care and all the accompanying expenses, and supports and accompanies us in the long process of rehabilitation. The media interest in the story also seems to reflect public opinion and the ready spirit that is beating in the heart of the people.

Thus, in effect, the state recognizes Ayala as having been harmed by an act directed against the state, similar to a soldier who was injured during his army service.

(Or in the language of the law: harm from hostile acts by military or semi-military or irregular forces of a state hostile to Israel, from hostile acts by an organization hostile to Israel or hostile acts carried out while assisting one of them, as their emissary or on their behalf or in order to advance their objectives – The Law of Compensation for Victims of Hostilities, 5730-1970).

On the other hand, the same state treats the terrorist himself as a criminal transgressor and not as an enemy soldier and accordingly puts him on trial for “three attempts of murder” (mine, Avner’s, and our daughter Ayala’s) and not (if already) on assisting the enemy.

And the terrorist himself?

He would certainly agree to the language of the law. After all he does not know Ayala personally (in fact, I have difficulty remembering his name) and has nothing personal against her. Did he know, at the time of the act, that she was the one in the car? Definitely not. Did he commit “three attempted murders”? He made two attempts to murder as many Jews as possible, with the clear intention of harming the sovereignty of the State of Israel.

But he did not look like a soldier! One of them is even a minor! Well, that’s exactly what “irregular forces of a hostile organization” look like.

How do you distinguish between irregular forces and a “regular” criminal? There are two easy tests:

1. The test of intention: Was the intention to harm the sovereignty of the State of Israel or a specific person?

2. The test of the environment: Was the arrest carried out as an ordinary police action, or was it more like a military operation? If there was a need for large forces to stop the terrorist, and there was a fear that someone might try to harm these forces during arrest, well, this is not a regular criminal, but an irregular combatant of a hostile organization (the hostile organization in this case, forms the hostile environment in which he lives).

And me?

As a mother, of course I would like to see the terrorist punished. I would like him to suffer as Ayala suffers. That his mother will go mad with worry as he hovers between life and death. That he will writhe in pain even while he is asleep, and the percentage of painkillers in his blood will exceed all imagination. That he will undergo surgery, after surgery after surgery, without knowing when it will be over. Since there is no clause in Israeli law that matches such a sentence, I would have been content with the death sentence or life imprisonment.

But aside from being Ayala’s mother, I am also an Israeli citizen, and I care about the country’s future as well, so I can not come to terms with his being tried on a clause so far from the act he committed.

It is important for me to clarify that I have no complaints against the military prosecution, which does its work faithfully. The problem is with the government, which prefers to escape responsibility for managing the war, and to transfer it to the legal system.

Who is the main victim of this policy?

Well, the answer is easy. The State of Israel is losing a great deal of money, both on the rehabilitation of victims of hostile acts and on the holding of terrorists in prisons, it is losing the international public relations arena, and slowly losing its sovereignty.

So I should look at the terrorist in the eyes?

It is more important and urgent for policymakers to look into the eyes of the people.

Ruth Shapira, Tammuz 5771
4.7.17