Tuesday, October 18, 2011

He's home! He's free! Now what!

"Eema -- Ani ba!" "Mother -- I am coming home!" screamed the Hebrew language headlines this morning. The proof we had awaited as we posted our "Gilad still lives!" bumper stickers was now at hand. Five years after he was kidnapped, on Israeli soil, by Hamas terrorists intent on finding a hostage to trade for their convicted and imprisoned terrorists and murderers, Gilad Shalit, is, thank God, home with his family and safe on Israeli soil. A little malnourished, but after being held for more than 5 years and denied the basics that any other prisoner in the civilized world takes for granted, what did we expect?

We knew the price would be exorbitant -- and it is -- 477 of those convicted murderers and others tried by courts and found guilty of crimes against the state of Israel released today before Gilad was released, another 500 + to be released in the coming days and weeks. The human calculus is staggering. And it is telling. Israel places that much value on a single soul. Hamas, and based on the reaction of Abbas, hailing the released as heroes, Fatah as well, treat there own as chattel in a war of attrition to destroy the state of Israel, mere pawns to be sacrificed in a greater cause.

It is easy to be euphoric for the Shalit family, and proud of Israel for bringing him home alive. However, as with all things in the Middle East, easy is rarely the way things go.

I present below links to two very opposing articles -- both of which I believe to be true. Such is the nature of being an Oheiv Tzion -- a lover of the State of Israel, in these complicated times. I feel the pain of Koby Mandell's parents, every bit as much as I did a decade ago when he was killed -- and the murderer of their child wasn't even amongst those released today! I share his mother's anguish that her therapeutic efforts to make his death mean something positive are made harder today, even as I can barely imagine the emotions that she cannot even share with the rest of us, even a decade later.

But I also share the pride that an Israeli government that I spend far more time criticizing than lauding, was able to bring Gilad home, and willing to do so, even at this too-high price. This, truly is the embodiment of the call that "Torah shall go forth from Zion, the word of God from Jerusalem" -- that Jewish values still matter, even in the most inhumane of circumstances; that life matters.

I share the concerns that the release of this many of this kind of prisoner must, somehow, weaken Israel's defenses. But at the same time, I acknowledge the truth in the words of a colleague -- that it may very well come to pass that many, if not most, of those released in exchange for Gilad Shalit will come to realize that, no matter how badly off they were in Israeli jails, the reality that now faces them may very well be worse. And honestly, both of those realizations make me sad, and make me even more committed to working to find the miracle app that will bring peace to the region in our lifetime -- so that concerns like these and the devaluing of human life need NEVER be glorified again!

So please, read both articles carefully. Celebrate for Gilad and his family. Rejoice in Israel's sticking to their values. But do not kid yourself that somehow this is the end of anything but one young Israeli's horrifying ordeal.



and a later addition -- a third article by my teacher, Rabbi David Ellenson, making the Rabbinic case for each side of the argument, and some history that may have swayed this decision:


and, as an added bonus, I share with you as well the remarkable story that I shared with my congregation on both Sukkot AND Shabbat, of the hope for peace, written by an 11 year old Israeli boy named Gilad Shalit (!) over a decade ago:


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