A man was charged Thursday with murdering his wife and two young children along with a neighbor’s child and attempting to murder another child, after being judged fit to stand trial.
Nadav Sela, 28, was accused in the Nazareth District Court of stabbing to death his wife, Dor Crasanti-Sela, 23; sons Yosef, just under 2, and Binyamin, 8 months; and neighbor Nachman Atia, 11, in the family’s home in the northern town of Migdal outside of Tiberias on Saturday, January 28.
Nachman’s brother Natan, 10, was knifed in the face, neck and hands but managed to survive by playing dead and later escaping out of a ground-floor window. Nahman and Natan had been invited over for a Shabbat meal.
According to the charge sheet, Sela did not stop the stabbing even as the victims begged to be spared and did not leave the house until he was sure that he had killed everyone.
While Sela was changing his clothes Natan Atia managed to jump out of a bedroom window and run for help. Dor’s father, Eitan Crasanti, arrived at the house, saw through an open window what had happened, and called the police.
A mobile police unit arrested Sela shortly after the killings at a nearby grove of olive trees. He confessed, the charge sheet read, and just mumbled the words “They’re Amalekites, they’re Amalekites.”
In biblical Jewish tradition, the nomadic Amalekite tribe came to be viewed as the essence of evil.
Of the 613 commandments followed by Orthodox Jews, one — based on 1 Samuel 15.3 — orders the destruction of Amalekites and says, “Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'”
No traces of alcohol or drugs were found in Sela’s blood. During questioning, he just repeated, “I murdered everyone at home because they were Amalekites.”
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Ofer Osta, head of the Israel Police northern district’s homicide unit, revealed that after questioning dozens of family acquaintances as well as rabbis with whom Sela had studied, in an attempt to discover the motive for the crime, “We found a piece of correspondence in one of his religious books that said something about the Amalekites. There’s a verse like that in the book he was reading but he didn’t know how to explain it or to quote any spiritual authority.”
Psychologists ruled that Sela was fit to stand trial after observing him for more than two weeks at a psychiatric medical center. During a previous remand hearing, he had said he was “a cat” and that he had slept with other women.
Osta said, “I sat opposite him [Sela] for 19 hours and the man was under the microscope. He behaves in a normative way.”
“We checked the whole family background,” Osta went on. “Dor, the mother, was pure and always did want he wanted and protected his dignity, raised the children and broadcast to the outside world that everything was okay. Her parents were the ones who helped them financially.”
Osta said, “This was one of the most difficult crime scenes that I’ve witnessed in my long service with the Israel Police.”
The court heard that during the days before the murder, Sela had contacted individuals in town to apologize for various things.
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That cohered with statements by Dor’s mother, Ravit Crasanti immediately after the killings, in which she said she was certain that her son-in-law had planned his actions in advance.
“He went and said goodbye to everyone,” she said. “On Friday night he sat with me at the table and asked for forgiveness. He said, ‘I’m sorry if I hurt you, I’m sorry if I said anything bad about you.’ He did the same to other people in the community,” she said. “He took his leave of them.”
Shortly before the court hearing, Crasanti burst into the hall carrying pictures of her daughter and her dead grandsons and repeatedly called on Sela to look at them. “You low-life murderer! Just look what you took from us!”
“It was important to me that he sees the faces of the children, that he understand what he took, the happiness of the family. Since then, there’s no happiness. He’s taken the life from us,” she said.
In response to a reporter’s question, Sela said, “I’m sorry.”