Gilad Shalit is, barring unforeseen accidents, heading back home after over five years in captivity, following an agreement between Israel and Hamas. In exchange for the kidnapped soldier, over a thousand Palestinian prisoners currently imprisoned in Israeli jails – including terrorists with blood on their hands – will be released. Two DC community members, Jason Langsner and Roni Bat Lavi, argue the pros and cons of the prisoner swap.
Jason Langsner: “If You Will It, It Is No Dream”
Many of us who have experienced the gift of Taglit-Birthright Israel may have heard, danced, or sung Salaam. “Od yavo’ shalom aleinu ve al kulam (peace will come upon us and on everyone),” sings Sheva.
Today is a new day in a new year. We are a week removed from Rosh Hashanah and just a couple days from Yom Kippur. Over these High Holidays I thought a lot about my days in Israel, my Israeli brothers and sisters protecting its land and our religion, and friends studying/working/traveling in our homeland today.
Yesterday I shared Red Velvet cupcakes with GTJ’s Frozen Chosen Girl(s) of the Week, Yael and Jane. Today Yael boarded a plane to study law at Tel Aviv U. A couple hours after this plane embarked towards Ben Gurion Airport, I heard the news that Gilad is to be freed. Perhaps when she lands, he will be home and we’ll be one step closer to peace for everyone.
I was in Israel on my own Birthright when Gilad Shalit was captured by Hamas in June 2006. My life has changed considerably since then. My Jewish identity has matured. I’ve finished grad school. I’ve worked hard and traveled the world. I’ve returned to Israel on several occasions. I have seen Gilad’s parents camping outside of the Prime Minister’s residence. I’ve been to Har Herzl on the anniversary of his capture and seen soldiers, citizens, and students marching for his safety and return. He has been in captivity.
According to the Jerusalem Post, the Cabinet voted 23-6 to allow a prisoner exchange to free Gilad. To create peace, these leaders will release 1,000 imprisoned Hamas operatives from Israeli prisoners. I feel for the families that lost loved ones under the actions of these convicted terrorists, but I look not to the past but to the future. The region is experiencing a transition towards democratization. The Arab Spring is empowering the moderates and creating a new day…in this new year.
“The Jewish people is a special people, responsible for one another,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in today’s cabinet meeting. “Our sages teach that those who save one Jewish life, it’s as if they have saved an entire world.” Today we have taken a collective leap forward to saving the world by working towards a compromise to release this innocent young man that has become a symbol for something greater.
The father of the Zionist movement, Theodor Herzl, said, “If you will it, it is no dream.” Many have willed Gilad’s freedom. Many have set a place for him over our Passover seders. Many have joined his family to dream of his return. Now that this dream has come true, we dream of what his freedom means: of a world where moderates are empowered; where radicalism is squashed; where terrorism is no more; where peace will come upon us and everyone.
Roni Bat Lavi: Prisoner Swaps Encourage Terror
Israel is a small country. There are no strangers. Israelis push and yell at each other, and yet die for each other, because everyone is family.
That is why the capture of Gilad by the monsters known as Hamas is so painful. Imagining how he suffers at their hands is heart-wrenching. He is your older brother who went off to Gaza a few years ago and never returned. He is your son who is set to start college next year when his service ends.
And yet, despite the anguish in the heart, it is dangerous to allow emotions to overcome reason. Releasing a thousand Hamas thugs, among them murderers who killed children in cold blood, would send a clear message to our enemies: kidnapping is rewarded. Murder is rewarded. It would be a major political victory for Hamas, and in turn would be a blow to creating lasting peace in the region.
Additionally, the released thugs would go on to kill again. More people would be stripped of a future with their parents, children, and grandparents. Hundreds of Israeli civilians have been murdered by terrorists released prematurely through uneven exchanges and “goodwill gestures.” Take the case of Matsab Hashalmon. Upon his release in a 2004 prisoner exchange, he wasted no time in organizing a suicide bombing in Beersheva that killed 16 people.
Each year, eighteen year old boys and girls enter the service of the Israeli Defense Forces. During the swearing-in ceremonies, often held at the Western Wall, their parents watch the teenagers take an oath to devote their entire strength, and even sacrifice their lives, to the defense of the state of Israel. Their people. Their family.
One such teenager was Nachshon Wachsman, an American-Israeli who enlisted in a combat unit. He was kidnapped by Hamas operatives and held hostage for days. Finally, the terrorists killed the unarmed teen in cold blood.
His murderer, Jihad Yaamur, may be released as part of the deal.
It is not an easy situation, and certainly not an easy choice. Gilad Shalit is my family. But the future victims of terrorists are just as precious to me as Gilad Shalit.
Have an additional angle on this issue that you’d like to share? Email Noa at Noa@gatherdc.org