I am writing this article on the fourth day of Chol Hamoed Sukkot. On the secular calendar the date is Oct. 18, 2011. This day will be remembered in history as the day Gilad Shalit came home. Five years ago, in a cross-border raid Gilad Shalit was kidnapped by Hamas. Gilad Shalit was not part of an invading force or a tactical military operation.
This teenager was kidnapped from his sovereign country by criminals in a criminal act. The fact that Gilad Shalit served his country as a member of the Israeli Defense Force confuses the issue. Gilad Shalit like every other Israeli teen is required by law to serve in the IDF. Every 19-year-old in Israel who is able to serve (with rare exemptions) is a member of the IDF. We cannot confuse this crime as an act of war simply because Gilad Shalit was wearing a uniform. This crime is a kidnapping perpetrated by terrorists.
After five years of prayer, hope and faith the community of Israel has seen their collective dream come to fruition. Gilad Shalit is finally free.
As a result of delicate negotiations with Hamas, Israel has agreed to release over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners to secure his freedom. Among these prisoners are terrorists responsible for some of the most horrific acts of terrorism in Israel’s young history. Contained within their resume is the 1989 attack on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem bus. Sixteen civilians were killed including 13 Israelis, two Canadians and one American; 27 more were wounded. Their resume continues with the bombing of Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem in which 15 civilians were killed and 130 injured. The victims of these attacks range in age from 2 to 63.
The value placed upon human life is one of our defining values. The Mishnah teaches us whoever saves a life is considered as having saved the entire world. Israel’s actions resulting in the release of Gilad Shalit conform to this defining value. Israel has shown the world the value that Judaism places upon the sanctity of human life.
We enter Simchat Torah one of our most joyous holidays celebrating the freedom of Gilad Shalit. Our celebration is tainted by the extreme sacrifice that Israel has made by releasing some of the most violent sworn enemies of our people. As we join the family of Gilad Shalit in celebrating his release from captivity we mourn together with the families of those killed by the terrorists released in this so-called prisoner exchange.
We can only pray that history does not repeat itself. Past releases of terrorists have resulted in additional civilian casualties through repeated acts of terror.
It is my hope and prayer that we will see a day when the decendents of Abraham can live together in peace. May the children of Isaac and the children of Ishmael come together as cousins paying true tribute to our common ancestor Abraham, the father of ethical monotheism.