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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Perspective on the Schalit deal

Since the announcement of a deal in which Israel will be releasing as many as 1000 security prisoners (many with blood on their hands) in exchange for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit (who has been held in Gaza for 5 1/2 years), many have come out publicly either for or against the deal.

Many Israelis are experiencing some combination of relief and delight that a soldier son who has been held prisoner for so long will finally be returned to the family and nation that fought and prayed so hard for his release.

But understandably, many israeli families who have lost loved ones in terror attacks perpetrated by those slated for release, have been quite vocal in their objection to the deal. They have even gone so far as to file petitions asking the Israeli supreme court to block the release of the murderers.

Like many, I can honestly say that I understand and agree with both positions.

But it was my synagogue's rabbi who was finally able to help me gain the proper perspective for viewing this deal.

He said that he too was torn about whether this deal was an acceptable one, much less a good one. But then he realized that it was impossible to decide by looking at it from the viewpoint of either the bereaved families of terror victims or the bereaved family of a kidnap victim.

He said that we are reminded many times by our sages that all of Israel is responsible for one another. He posits that this means that we are obligated to view ourselves as one large family rather than a nation of families, and must make decisions based on that viewpoint.

He didn't tell us whether he favored or disapproved of the deal. But he said it was made clear to him what the right course of action would be once he looked at the situation, not from one family or the other... but rather when he looked at it as if he were a parent of a single family who had had one child killed in a terror attack, and a second child kidnapped and awaiting ransom.

That, he told us, is the only way the nation of Israel can begin to contemplate such a terrible choice.

Posted by David Bogner on October 16, 2011 | Permalink

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Does 1 Isreal soldier = 1000 terrorists? I thought Isreal was smarter than that.

Posted by: Laserbeam | Oct 16, 2011 7:29:11 AM

Does 1 Isreal soldier = 1000 terrorists? I thought Isreal was smarter than that.

Posted by: Laserbeam | Oct 16, 2011 7:29:11 AM

When the Maharam m'Rottenburg was kidnapped by the German emperor Rudolf, he refused to allow the Jewish community to pay the exorbitant ransom demanded. Yes, we should have pity on the family of Gilad Shalit, but as the Maharam pointed out, paying such ransoms only encourages more kidnapping. The price is simply too high, and makes the price of committing terrorism too low.

Posted by: Russell Gold | Oct 16, 2011 8:22:13 AM

The question is what will be the fate of the remaining members of the family,children and adults. What will make them safer,or endanger them,and to what degree.We can`t change the past, but must look to the future and decide on what will be best for all the members of this very large family.I hope we`ll use our head as well as our heart to guide us in this difficult time.

Posted by: ED | Oct 16, 2011 8:34:28 AM

It seems to me that most of us instinctively consider both aspects of the problem which makes all the more excruciating.

Posted by: Quietusleo | Oct 16, 2011 9:02:13 AM

"paying such ransoms only encourages more kidnapping." Yes, but....Terror Inc has been attempting more kidnappings anyway--they have not be deterred by failure of ransom to date. So, I (with hideous reluctance) opt for redeeming the live victim while mourning the dead ones, knowing perfectly well that any one of us could be future victims.....

Posted by: aliyah06 | Oct 16, 2011 9:38:46 AM

"...as if he were a parent of a single family who had had one child killed in a terror attack, and a second child kidnapped and awaiting ransom."

and a third and forth child who will be killed and maimed in future terror attacks.

Posted by: ruth | Oct 16, 2011 11:04:03 AM

Thank you for sharing these wise words, David. Much appreciated.

Posted by: Abu Zibby | Oct 16, 2011 11:24:22 AM

My naieve perspective is that whether Gilad is released or not Hamas/Fatah will do their darndest to kill more jews so why don't we get him home while we have the chance?

Posted by: Aharon Fischman | Oct 16, 2011 12:46:39 PM

My naieve perspective is that whether Gilad is released or not Hamas/Fatah will do their darndest to kill more jews so why don't we get him home while we have the chance?

Posted by: Aharon Fischman | Oct 16, 2011 12:46:39 PM

To continue in Ruth's vein:

"...as if he were a parent of a single family who had had one child killed in a terror attack, and a second child kidnapped and awaiting ransom."

and third, fourth and fifth children who were also killed in terror attacks, all of whose murderers will be released. And sixth, seventh and eighth children who will be killed and maimed in future terror attacks. And ninth and tenth children who will serve in the IDF and be exposed to kidnapping for similar purposes...

As Israelis, as Jews, as family, our hearts bleed for Gilad and the Schalits. But the cost is too high.

Posted by: Alisha | Oct 16, 2011 2:13:29 PM

Terrorism will continue, irrespective of this deal. Your rabbi's advice seems sage to me. It is a family situation and, of course, we save the living child, thankful that we have the ransom.

Posted by: Delmar Bogner | Oct 16, 2011 3:31:50 PM

"paying such ransoms only encourages more kidnapping." "Yes, but....Terror Inc has been attempting more kidnappings anyway--"

All the negotiations and the protests are what have encouraged and emboldened the terrorists. The actual signing of the deal is only the icing on the cake.

Posted by: fungo | Oct 16, 2011 4:50:59 PM

"paying such ransoms only encourages more kidnapping." "Yes, but....Terror Inc has been attempting more kidnappings anyway--"

All the negotiations and the protests are what have encouraged and emboldened the terrorists. The actual signing of the deal is only the icing on the cake.

Posted by: fungo | Oct 16, 2011 4:51:00 PM

I have often wondered why some posts show up multiple times. Now I know. Good thing I only pushed the button twice :-)
When the "Post" button is pushed, there should be some sort of response that lets you know that the comment is being posted and the button should be made nonfunctional until the posting is completed.

Posted by: fungo | Oct 16, 2011 4:56:52 PM

I have said that if I were the kidnapped Israeli, I would scream as loud as I could: don't trade a single terrorist for me. If I had a child who was a kidnapped Israeli, I believe I would do anything to get that child back home. If I had a loved one who was killed by one of the terrorists being freed, I think I would be devastated. Hamas knows full well what they are doing to us. They've put us in a no-win situation, and they're going to milk it for all it's worth.

I said somewhere else that I wish every released terrorist could be injected with a microchip, so the IDF could track their movements and know exactly where each one is at every moment. (That's not what I *really* wish, but I'm not supposed to wish for what I really want to happen.)

Posted by: Alissa | Oct 16, 2011 8:09:06 PM

Without commenting on the main point of David's poignant post, I want to respond to Laserbeam and clarify that not all of the 1,000+ prisoners are terrorists. Some are in prison for far lesser crimes. This trade for Gilad is gut-wrenching enough without exaggerating. It is important to keep our facts straight.

Posted by: Sarah B. | Oct 16, 2011 8:33:32 PM

My idea for Israel's next step: Passing a law making it illegal to trade more than one prisoner for one soldier or citizen. (Or, if you want to be more lenient, you could cap it at some other low number, such as three prisoners for a soldier and five for a civilian, or whatever.) Something like that MIGHT SOMEWHAT lower the motivation to kidnap Israelis. Not entirely, but at least we'd never get into numbers like this again.

Posted by: Sarah B. | Oct 16, 2011 8:36:55 PM

One has to have faith in G-d, I think, that He will balance the scales set so far out of true by men. I had given up hope that Gilad was even alive -- welcome him home.

My own scheme for releasing the 1,000 or so in exchange is too mean-spirited and evil for publication here.

Posted by: Wry Mouth | Oct 16, 2011 9:19:19 PM

All we can hope is that the Shabak keeps tabs on each and every one of them and if they return to their murderous ways, they are quickly and quietly eliminated.

Posted by: Toronto Yid | Oct 17, 2011 12:07:13 AM

The following is from a conversation which I had with Rabbi David Bar-Hayim:

During the days of Hazal the formula of not paying an excessive amount for a Jewish captive was an appropriate one since otherwise those seeking ransom (the equivalent of pirates) would understand that taking Jews prisoner was a profitable endeavor.

Nowadays, we face a situation which Hazal were not addressing- the existence of a sovereign Jewish state faced by enemies sworn to its destruction who exploit the taking of captives and the subsequent negotiating process as a means of weakening and demeaning us.

Under such circumstances no such deals whatsoever are appropriate insofar as they further our enemy's designs.

Posted by: HaRazieli | Oct 17, 2011 1:14:58 PM

In response to fungo's comment: There is a movement going around the mechinot that are having the pre-army boys sign a document that if they are kidnapped not to trade prisoners to release them.

I think it is unfair. The families of the kidnapped suffer as much as the one kidnapped. How can someone make that decision without consulting the family.

A parallel I will make as a nurse: many people insist that they don't want to live if their circumstances become dire medically. Yet when they become dire, they do everything in their power to live even just a bit longer.

I say you cannot know how you will feel until you are in a situation. All the exclamations about how you want things to be don't mean anything until you are in that place.

Posted by: susie@newdaynewlesson | Oct 17, 2011 7:53:42 PM

I agree the most with Delmar's comment above. In the final annalysis, how can we as the collective family live with the guilt of turning our back on an opportunity to save a living son?

Posted by: Bryan | Oct 17, 2011 8:46:24 PM

Get him back safely then hit the terrorist bastards HARD before they kidnap another Israeli... release 1,000 today and target 1,500 tomorrow!

(Normally, I feel like I'm more "level-headed" or "center of the road" kind-of-guy than that statement, but a really sucky day at work has this effect on me!)

Posted by: ProphetJoe | Oct 17, 2011 9:10:48 PM

Instead of dwelling on this or that family's particular ordeal, a government needs to decide what will best protect the security of the nation as a whole.

Posted by: Bob Miller | Oct 17, 2011 10:26:54 PM

Instead of dwelling on this or that family's particular ordeal, a government needs to decide what will best protect the security of the nation as a whole.

Posted by: Bob Miller | Oct 17, 2011 10:27:02 PM

It is quite telling that the terrorist release is plausible only when you imagine a family with only two children.

Posted by: zalman | Oct 18, 2011 10:56:21 AM

I am simultaneously elated and fearful, I don't see how this situation can not breed ambivalence. I'm so very happy for Gilad, his family, his friends, we should all be so lucky and have our loved ones returned to us in (more or less) one piece. But this sets a horrific precedent, horrific! It will only take 5 soldiers more until all prisoners are released, we have shown them kidnapping works and we can rely on 60% of those released going back to terrorist acts, I expect an euphoric backlash from the territories momentarily. It's also a very heavy burden for Gilad to bear and he can't be in tiptop shape, mentally, after these long 5 years. From a humanitarian and moral perspective, I think it was absolutely the right thing to do, no man left behind. From a strategic perspective, it was a mistake all of Israel will pay for, unfortunately. I can only be cowardly happy I am not the one who has to make this sort of decision.

Posted by: Lioness | Oct 18, 2011 11:18:03 AM

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