My presence at my computer is only intermittent, and will continue to be so until Thursday night, when the holiday is over. Quite simply, it is a mitzvah (a commandment) to dwell — to eat and sleep — in the Sukkah. And a source of joy to do so with family.
But in no way does this mean I have forgotten about Gilad Shalit, or other pressing matters of the day. The issue of Shalit in particular weighs heavily upon my mind and heart — as upon everyone’s. As I last wrote just as the news of the deal broke, I share here both additional facts and thoughts.
Let me begin by stating what I hope is obvious: Although there are multiple sound reasons to be thoroughly opposed to the deal that is about to take place, this cannot/should not negate the human gladness at seeing this son of Israel return home. He was grabbed by Hamas because he is an Israeli soldier, and he has suffered greatly for the very same reason. Whatever poor decisions are being made on his behalf, he has had no part in them — he will simply be brought home. Undoubtedly damaged, although we don’t know yet how badly.
If only he were returning by means other than a prisoner swap with Hamas, there would be unmitigated joy. As it is, it’s schizoid situation and terribly painful on many counts. Schizoid is quite a good word for what is going on. Conflicted might be another.
Ransoming of captives (pidyon shvuyim) was set out by the Mishna (code of Jewish law) as a mitzvah. Traditionally Jewish communities went to great lengths to redeem captives. However, the rabbis ruled that the good of the community also had to be considered: if ransom was excessively burdensome on the community, or if paying the ransom would motive additional kidnappings, it was discouraged or forbidden.
The parallels here are obvious.
For the record, when the Cabinet voted to proceed with the deal, there were three who voted against: Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya’alon (Likud), Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beitenu), and National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beitenu). Men of integrity.
Ya’alon, reflecting the national struggle, said it so very well:
“My heart says yes, but my head says no. (Emphasis added)
“This issue has ethical, national, security and strategic aspects. On the one hand, we have a responsibility for Gilad – the need to save his life and redeem a captive. But to bring about his release, we would have to free 1,000 terrorists. From experience, we know that the terrorists we release will lead to the murder of dozens and maybe hundreds of Israelis.
“[The Schalit deal] would be a victory for Hamas and a surrender to terror. It would give new spirit to jihadist extremists and harm our deterrence. We are obligated to the life of Gilad Schalit and to return him home, but we are also obligated to protect the citizens of Israel.”
Ya’alon spoke about terrorists released in 1985, which sparked the first intifada and caused the death of at least 178 Israelis.
That there is going to be more of the same now is inevitable. Yoram Cohen, head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, admitted this when he said, “We cannot promise that they will not produce terror.”
In a 2008 study done for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Nadav Shragai reported that Israeli security services have informally estimated that about half of the terrorists set free “returned to the path of terror, either as perpetrator, planner, or accomplice.” (With thanks to Dave A. on this.)
Among those who are apparently going to be released (the list is from Hamas and not confirmed by Israel) are Nasser Batima, who was in prison for planning the Passover Seder bombing at the Park hotel in Netanya, in which 30 were killed and 140 wounded, and Husam Badran, who helped plan the bombing of the Dolphinarium nightclub in Tel Aviv, in which 21 young people were murdered.
These are big guns: planners. They are not about to take up carpentry or become computer repairmen.
And then there’s Ahlam Tamimi, complicit in the bombing of the Sbarro Pizza restaurant, in which 15 were killed and many more wounded. She is usually referred to as the one who drove the suicide bomber to the Sbarro, but in fact she helped plan the operation. From prison, she gave an interview in which she declared she regretted nothing.
One of those killed in Sbarro was 15-year old Malki Roth. Her parents were so enraged by the prospect of Tamimi being released that they circulated a petition asking that her name be removed from the list of those to be traded.
The deadline was today, but in any event, it has occurred to me that the anger of the families of those killed during the Seder bombing or at the Dolphinarium or during other attacks can be no less — even if they did not circulate individual petitions. The issue is far bigger than the removal of one name from that list.
An article in the JPost, for example, cited Hovav Nuriel, whose father, Sasson Nuriel, was murdered by a Hamas cell; his family, he says, has been “shattered” by the news that three of the terrorists convicted of the murder were to be freed.
And then there’s Haim Karisi, whose daughter, was killed by a terrorist now slated to be released:
“What they did to us is like a slap in the face. We need to hear about the terrorist who killed our daughter being released from the media? Everyone is happy and dancing in our blood and with all due respect to Gilad’s smiling mother, there are hundreds of parents whose heart is bleeding today.”
And, so, the Almagor Terror Victims Organization has organized a petition by victims of terror asking that the High Court of Justice stop the trade. It is unprecedented, said the petition, because of the emotional consequences for families of those murdered, and because of the security risks.
Do not count on the Court intervening. But the pain of these families should not be forgotten.
The operation — called Operation Beit HaShoeva — has been finalized by David Meidan, in Cairo, on behalf of the Israeli government. Everything is said to be “go” for Tuesday morning: Shalit will be brought from Gaza into the Sinai, likely via Rafah, and will be met by Egyptian soldiers and a small IDF contingent. He will then be brought south to an Egyptian army base. Once his identity and condition have been verified, word will go out to release the first 450 prisoners. Shalit will then be brought into Israel, to the Tel Nof base, by helicopter. There will be a brief, small reception for him and he will then be brought to his home in Mitzpe Hila.
As to the released prisoners, who will have been gathered at a prison in the south of Israel and whose identities will be confirmed by the Red Cross: some 110 will be brought to Ramallah and will be permitted to move into homes in Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem. About half of these, including 57 Hamas prisoners, will have security restrictions. Others will go to Gaza or be deported elsewhere. Tamimi is supposed to go to Jordan.
Some 279 of these 450 were serving life sentences.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.