Religions 2012, 3(3), 725-738; doi:10.3390/rel3030725
Article

Suicide in Judaism with a Special Emphasis on Modern Israel

Received: 29 June 2012; in revised form: 28 July 2012 / Accepted: 2 August 2012 / Published: 21 August 2012
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religions and Psychotherapies)
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Abstract: Judaism considers the duty of preserving life as a paramount injunction. Specific injunctions against suicide appear in the Bible, Talmud, and thereafter. Nevertheless, Jewish tradition emphasizes that one should let himself be killed rather than violate cardinal rules of Jewish law. Mitigating circumstances are found for the six deaths by suicide mentioned in the Bible, for example to account for one's sins, or avoid shameful death. Heroic suicide is praised throughout the Jewish history, from the suicide of Samson and the collective suicide in Masada, to the collective readiness of Jews in Medieval times and during the Holocaust to kill themselves rather than succumb to their enemies. Suicide rates for Jews are lower than those of Protestants and Catholics. Similarly, suicide rates in Israel are lower in comparison to Europe and North America, although being higher than those in most Moslem Asian and North African countries. This low rate of suicide is found in Jewish Israelis of all ages, including in adolescents. Elevated suicidal risk may be found in specific sub-populations, including male Israeli soldiers, immigrants from the former USSR and Ethiopia, in particular adolescent immigrants from the former USSR, elderly Holocaust survivors, and young Israel-Arab women. The meaning of these findings is discussed according to different socio-cultural perspectives.
Keywords: suicide; attempted suicide; Judaism; Israel
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MDPI and ACS Style

Witztum, E.; Stein, D. Suicide in Judaism with a Special Emphasis on Modern Israel. Religions 2012, 3, 725-738.

AMA Style

Witztum E, Stein D. Suicide in Judaism with a Special Emphasis on Modern Israel. Religions. 2012; 3(3):725-738.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Witztum, Eliezer; Stein, Daniel. 2012. "Suicide in Judaism with a Special Emphasis on Modern Israel." Religions 3, no. 3: 725-738.

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