Tag: Gilad Shalit

Gilead Shalit’s Release – Reflections of an Israeli Rabbi

We celebrate the release of Gilead Shalit from more than 5 years of captivity. After observing the High Holy Days with his picture sharing our bimah, we take comfort that our prayers are answered.

It is difficult to gauge from the United States what Shalit’s coming home feels like to the citizens of Israeli Progressive Movement Rabbi Mickey Boyden, shared these reflections with rabbinic colleagues. With his permission, I invite you to read his stirring words:

Eyes were glued to the TV screens as we watched Gilead Shalit being transferred by the Hamas to the Egyptians. He looked pale and thin – so different from the condition of the Palestinian terrorists, who were released in the prisoner exchange. (Israel TV reported that Gilead felt nauseous while on board the IDF helicopter that took him to the Tel Nof base and that he had to be given oxygen. All those who accompanied him said that he was extremely weak.)

And then there were the two Palestinian female terrorists, who held up the transfer because of their desire to be released to Egypt rather than being sent to Gaza. One wonders why.

But most cruel was the interview that Egyptian TV forced on Gilead Shalit before he was finally handed over to Israel. Although Gilead was clearly under tremendous emotional strain and was being tortured with questions, his answers were nevertheless thoughtful and to the point. He hoped that the peace process could be advanced and believed that additional Palestinian prisoners could be released in the future provided that they refrained from further acts of terror.

In contrast to the Egyptian TV propaganda assault on Gilead, the manner he was treated by Israel was entirely different. Even those all Israel’s TV and radio stations devoted all of their programmes to Gilead’s release, there were nevertheless no interviews with him, the press was kept at a distance and the only film footage and photos to be released were those taken by the IDF. Apart from one photograph released by the IDF, the emotional reunion
between Gilead and his family took place behind closed doors.

While today is a day of celebration in Gaza and Ramallah, feelings in Israel are far more muted. There is joy at Gilead’s release after over five years of solitary confinement while in captivity, but there is also the recognition that many terrorists with blood on their hands were set free instead of spending the rest of their lives in prison. It was only last night that Israel’s Supreme Court ruled against the petition by families of terror victims, who tried to stop the exchange taking place.

However, against that, there was the memory of how there might have been a chance of rescuing Ron Arad, but that that opportunity had been missed. Gilead Shalit had to be brought home in one piece and almost at any price.

There are already calls for the reinstitution of the death penalty for terrorists found guilty of murdering Israeli civilians. There are those who believe that the Knesset should pass legislation against prisoner exchanges of this nature in the future. However, there are also the calls of those who believe that Gilead’s release should serve as a springboard for trying to reach some kind of an accommodation with the Palestinians in general and Hamas in particular.

In spite of everything, today is nevertheless one of joy for us all as we see Gilead finally returned to his family.

Mo’adim l’simcha,

Micky Boyden
We Are For Israel

Gilad Is Coming Home: A Bittersweet Victory?

Gilad Shalit is to be freed. A deal with Hamas, Israel’s terrorist neighbor, has been struck in which one Israeli soldier (held for 5 years without a Red Cross visit) is to be traded for 1,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails.

A bittersweet victory. Celebration mixes with worry.

We celebrate that Gilad is to be freed. We worry that such a trade will make it more likely that Hamas or others will try to kidnap other Israeli soldiers. We kvell that Israel will go to great lengths to bring their soldier-citizens home. We are made anxious that it might appear like Israel is negotiating with terrorists.

As Rabbi Josh Hammerman explains:

For Jews, this is a classic search for the lesser of the evils, a choice we’re quite experienced at making. The Talmud considers “Pidyon Shevuyim,” the rescue of captives, to be among the highest of priorities (Bava Batra 8b) and later legal authorities concur. Medieval Jewish communities often were called upon to pony up big bucks to redeem kidnapped kin. In contemporary Israel, it has become standard practice to swap busloads of prisoners for one captive soldier, or even for his remains.

How do we reconcile these complex feelings? The Israeli Movement for Progressive Judaism released this statement which concludes:

The Book of Ecclesiastes, which we read on the festival of Sukkot, teaches us that “there is a time to cry and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” The reality of life in Israel often requires us to laugh and cry at the same time; to dance while we are still mourning. We will continue to cherish the memory of the victims of terror even as our hearts fill with joy as God returns Gilad to his family. 

Here are a few thought-provoking articles:

  • Everyone’s Son (Gilad Shalit is Every Israeli’s Son) by Yossi Klein HaLevy in Tablet Magazine.  In opposing the mass release of terrorists in exchange for Gilad Shalit’s freedom, I felt as if I was betraying my own son.
  • A Thousand Terrorists for Shalit? Rabbi Joshua Hammerman in The Jewish Week.  Is the release of Gilad Shalit worth an exchange of a thousand Hamas prisoners, including some who have blood on their hands and could well kill more innocent Israelis (and others)?

We conclude with a Prayer from Rabbi Joel Simmonds:

M’kor Chayim (Source of Life), as we enter this holiday of Sukkot we are reminded of the command to be joyful.

As this festival is called Z’man Simchateinu, the time of our joy, we enter it with a cautious pinch of optimism.

As we welcome guests into our Sukkot we rejoice as Gilad Shalit will be welcomed back into the Sukkat Shalom of Eretz Yisrael.

Just as our Sukkot are temporary dwellings; fragile and vulnerable to the elements, so too is the hope for peace.

May our feet dance with added joy in our Sukkot this year and may the temporary joy spill into this new year as Gilad our son and brother is permanently home.