It started with question marks—“Gilad Shalit Is Coming Home?”—and quickly turned into exclamation points: “Gilad Shalit Is Coming Home!” After almost 2,000 days in captivity, Gilad Shalit walked into the open arms of his parents, family, and indeed of the whole Jewish people.
“Gilad, we set up a special Facebook group for you,” a friend will tell him. He won’t understand. “What’s Facebook?” Five years a hostage! Five years of being disconnected from the outside world. Five years of nonstop thoughts: Will I ever again see my parents, my family? Will I ever get out of here? Will I ever have the chance to start a family of my own?
Thank G‑d, Gilad is getting answers to his questions.
What a celebration. How timely during the holiday of Sukkot, the “Time of Our Rejoicing.”
I’m very happy, but also confused. In fact, I’m a bit angry.
Gilad Shalit is finally home, but we’ve given in. Hamas is having giant victory celebrations. One thousand terrorists, including those responsible for the most fearsome and indiscriminate mass killings, are going free. Cold-blooded murderers, and those who helped them, those with blood on their hands and those who smiled when told the number of the children swept up in their blood-thirst: They’re all going free. They’re even pledging to target Jews once more.
Two pictures flash beside each other in my mind. In one, Gilad is at the air base, the Prime Minister is standing and waiting, and he comes down with slow and somewhat halting steps… seeing once again Hebrew letters before his eyes. Here’s his abba Noam, the father who never stopped thinking about him for even a moment. Here’s ima, Aviva, here’s his brother… is this real, or just a daydream? In the hours ahead, maybe he’ll say a shy “thank you” to the whole nation, the thousands of Jews the world over who never stopped praying for him, who recited hundreds of thousands of Psalms and committed millions of good deeds in his name.
But in the second picture, I see the terrorists riding on buses, waving their fingers in “V for Victory” signs. I see the thousands of families waiting for them with screams of “Allahu Akbar” and “Death to Israel.” I see giant celebrations in Gaza, ranting sermons in the mosques about Israel’s surrender. I see the blurry blood-stained images of more terror victims and the next Gilad that will, G‑d forbid, result from the freeing of these murderers.
The murderers of the Fogel family are right now sitting in a jail cell watching TV. Believe me, they see the same images. They’re watching what’s happening, and telling each other, “Don’t worry, our own turn will come.”
The truth is, I don’t know who to be angry at. Should I be angry at the present Israeli government, which abandoned all of its principles and folded in the face of Hamas’s outrageous demands? Or at the government of 1985, which approved the Jibril agreement, in which over a thousand terrorists were freed in return for three IDF soldiers? Or maybe I should be mad at the 1979 Israeli government, which handed over 79 terrorists in exchange for one soldier? Unfortunately, there is already a tradition of capitulation, a tradition of surrender and a pattern known to all it seems but the leaders themselves. No wonder that the terrorists have learned our weaknesses and exploit them to the fullest.
“We do not redeem captives for too high a price, for the good of society,” the Talmud says. Way back then, our Sages well recognized the danger of concessions that simply whet the kidnappers’ appetites further. The more dangerous the kidnappers, the greater the danger.
What could have been done differently to free Gilad Shalit? I don’t know. I’m not an intelligence agent, nor a prophet. But like an elusive “peace,” this shouldn’t have come at so exorbitant a price.
Allow me to dedicate some last words to Gilad Shalit.
Gilad, who knows, maybe someday you’ll do a Google search and read articles written about you and in tribute to you. If you ever come across this article, dear Gilad, then I want to embrace you in the name of all of our readers. Gilad, we love you. We’re so happy that you came home! May G‑d bless you to know only good in your life from now on.