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Home From Captivity: Musings on the Return of Gilad Shalit

Home From Captivity: Musings on the Return of Gilad Shalit


From my home in Brooklyn throughout the morning, I closely followed the minute by minute accounts of the return of Gilad Shalit. At 4:30 a.m., the Egyptian television image of the gaunt 25-year-old Israeli soldier, who just moments before had been released by his Hamas captors and crossed the Gazan border a free man, flashed on my computer screen. What an extraordinary feeling of joy to see this young, frail and innocent man alive and well!

After five years of imprisonment in a cellar of hell guarded by terrorists, refused even a humanitarian visit from the Red Cross, Gilad is now home with Noam and Aviva Shalit, the father and mother who for years, camped out in front of the Prime Minister’s Office to draw attention to their son’s plea.

Since the Shalits erected their tent off of, interestingly enough, Gaza Street, I visited them during a few trips to Jerusalem. They were the most dedicated parents one could ever meet; after looking at the pain in their eyes, it was impossible to forget young Gilad during daily prayers.

Thousands of us, joined by those who never knew the family, have dedicated good deeds in Gilad’s merit, yearning for the day that he would one day know freedom.

My nine-year-old daughter Moussie, who was moved by her own visit with the Shalits, decided to write a letter to Gilad a few days before Rosh Hashanah this year. A school project had students extend High Holiday greetings to people they cared about, and she couldn’t think of anyone more appropriate than this man she never met.

“My wish for the New Year is for you to finally get back to your parents and family who love you and miss you so dearly,” she wrote, signing her letter “A Caring Girl” and fully aware that Gilad might never see it. “All of Israel, all the Jewish people in the world, and, I am sure, all good and kindhearted people on earth join me in this wish.”

Last week, during a family trip to my brother’s Chabad House in Alabama, we learned that Gilad would soon be home.

Words cannot describe our elation upon seeing the headlines.

But the feelings of relief, of happiness and of joy soon gave way to trepidation and fear as news of the price – 1,027 prisoners and terrorists! – trickled through.

That evening I saw on Facebook the efforts of Arnold Roth, whose 15-year-old daughter Malki was among the 15 others cut down by a suicide bomber’s blast outside the Sbarro pizzeria in 2001. Mr. Roth noted that as part of the Israeli government’s deal with Hamas, it would be releasing Ahlam Tamimi, the woman who helped plan and carry out the attack that took his daughter’s life. Five years ago, this same terrorist famously exclaimed: “I’m not sorry for what I did.”

Mr. Roth was looking for signatures on a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Justice Ministry to strike Tamimi’s name from the list of prisoners to be freed. The plea – and similar ones lodged by terror victims’ family members – fell on deaf ears. This, despite the promises of many of these terrorists to return to their bloodthirsty ways.

Can anyone forget the events of October 2000, when Abed Alaziz Salaha waved his bloody hands joyously from the second floor of the Ramallah police station while his accomplices threw the lynched body of 35-year-old Vadim Norzich out the window? That image, a telling example of the savagery perpetrated by the same villains now celebrating their own freedom, will be seared into my mind for a lifetime.

Yesterday, I read the response of Sherri Mandell, whose 13-year-old son Koby and friend Yosef Ish Ran were stoned to death near his Tekoa home, to the prisoner transfer. While Israel rejoices, she wrote, she and other parents, widows and orphans are in despair. As someone who has dedicated her life to working with other victims’ families, she has seen people die from grief. She realizes she will likely see more.

Listening to the experts speak about how the terrorists now rejoicing in Gaza are more than 50 percent likely to go back to murdering again sends a shiver down my spine. My heart rejoices with the Shalits, but I am in fear of what course nature will take with these monsters free again.

During one of my conversations with Noam Shalit, the soft-spoken father acknowledged that by advocating for the release of hardened criminals, of terrorists with blood on their hands, he could be indirectly consigning even more innocents to death and pain.

“The Israeli security services and the army should re-arrest all of those with blood on their hands after their return,” he stated. “My son, who as a soldier served his country, is entitled for Israel to do anything and everything to bring him home.”

I pray that his entire wish comes true.

In the Book of Joshua we learn that as Moses’ successor was leading the Jewish people in battle to conquer the Land of Israel, victory was imminent, but darkness was about to fall. Joshua decreed that the Sun should stand still until Israel’s armies win the battle. G‑d performed a miracle and brought the entire solar system to a halt.

We are now in the midst of the joyous holiday of Sukkot, and as we prepare to enter the celebrations of Simchat Torah, we desperately need that Sun to halt once more. Let the miracle of Gilad’s release continue with an even greater miracle, with the revealed promise of G‑d’s full protection of all the people of Israel and the ultimate joy of an era when war, murder and evil will be eradicated forever.

Rabbi Avraham Berkowitz works at Lubavitch World Headquarters in Brooklyn, NY.
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Zev Simcha Bangkok, Thailand October 24, 2011

@Desert Voice You tell me to stop living in the biblical past but all of your arguments for connectedness between Jews and Arabs are biblical. The Grand Mufti ordered Arabs to leave the state of Israel hoping the combined armies of Arab states would destroy Israel. In successive wars Arabs had one desire; not to form one state for Arabs and Jews but to drive Jews out. Arabs apparently don't share your view. They live in the real world, the world you object to that had such a devastating affect on your family. And amazingly in one sentence you dismiss sending Palestinians to Jordan with no argument. There are as much historical ties of Palestinians to Jordan as to Israel. Reply

desert voice Cracow, Poland October 23, 2011

My Response to Zev Simcha I understand your mindset. You are still living in the past. The world has evolved, and we are no longer in biblical times. Your first sentence is unclear. I do not advocate any "anexation"! Did I object to Germany's anexation of Poland? You got it! After 72 years, I still do! I was too young to protest then. They killed my mother. She was 22, and I was 3. I never forgot that. Then they killed my grandfather, in Auschwitz, Block 2. That is why I can never forget the anexation of Poland, and would never accept anything like that! You are wrong about Sarah's and Hagar's dscendants not being connected! They are. By Abraham! He is the Father of the Arabs! You cannot rewrite the Bible! Israel has been forever connected by the blood of Abraham, to Ismael! How can blood of Abraham "destroy Israel"? It should not, and it must not! You are brothers for ever, till the end of time! You must stop fighting precisely because you have a common Father, Abraham! You cannot send Palestinians to Jordan! Reply

Zev Simcha Bangkok, Thailand October 22, 2011

To Desert Voice Did you object when Germany annexed Poland? Would you find that acceptable today? A state is defined by language, borders and cultures. There is nothing that connects Jews and Arabs. A one state solution is tantamount to destroying Israel. If you advocate a one state solution it should be Palestinians and Jordanians living in Jordan. Reply

Ru Cowes, UK October 22, 2011

Gilad Shalit May G-d bless him and all of Israel amen! Israeli Defence Force is heightened. If terrorists or prisoners will try to do their evil doing then they will be captured before they did any or much 'damage'. WHY? because, God is watching.... they who believe in Him will be kept to prosper and flourish. As one of the commenters commented, God has His way to send us Signals. And, for the non-believers, only time will tell. Happy Holidays - it is time to be HAPPY - it is a Mitzva. Reply

Zev simcha Bangkok, Thailand October 21, 2011

Schalit Release @Dr Abe Chiang Mai

I'm sure all those killers released will go home, take up farming or devote themselves to lives of self sacrifice and community service and advocate for a peaceful solution to the two state crisis.
But how many jailed terrorists will Israel release the next time a civilian or soldier is kidnapped. If you want to be humane why not release all of those in Israeli jails now? If you're willing to trade 1 for 1,000 why not practice preventive medicine.
Schalit's father said Israel should simply round up those prisoners released as if that isn't putting more soldiers in harms way.
I'm sympathetic to the family but every time a commander orders men into battle he is acting coldly in a manner that soldier's family would find inhumane and unacceptable. And I have served 4 years in the military. Reply

Anonymous Orebro, Sweden October 19, 2011

Gilad Shalit Welcome home to Israel. Reply

desert voice Cracow, Poland October 19, 2011

The One-State Solution is the Only Sensible Soluti I always thought that this release of prisoners is a momentous event in the history of the world. Once the prisoners are released the peace should dawn on the Middle East, Palestine, and Israel! After all, this is a historic agreement among those who never agreed. The next step that should logically follow is a political reunification of Fatah and Hamas. Israel should promote the one-state idea. It is something that I have proposed some months ago in several posts to different newspapers, as the only sensible alternative. Since then, what appeared "irrational" to many, has been discussed by more and more people. The one-state solution offers a possible thousand-year epoch of peace among the Semitic people. The Palestinians could be given the option of dual citizenship. The Jerusalem as capital, would no longer be a concern. Both people would share a single capital city. Autonomy could be given to some areas, and the settlement problem would vanish, for each would live where he wants! Reply

Dr. Abe simhony Chiang Mai, Thailand October 19, 2011

Reply to mr. Simcha This is the most inhuman, cold and totally unacceptable words I have read in reaction to the human, albeit difficult, but correct decision taken by the government of Israel.. Every soldier, or commander is aware of the binding principle that he/she will not be left on her/his own, be the costs what they may. Mr. simcha, have you ever been a soldier, are you a father of one? I must admit I am embarassed and ashamed to read your words! Reply

Yehoshua Be''er Sheva, Israel October 19, 2011

Extremely Touching This was a wake up call to my Neshamah. Everyone must listen. HaShem is sending us loud, loud messages here. When HaShem sends us messages, they're not to be ignored. Reply

Zev Simcha Bangkok, Thailand October 19, 2011

Shalit release Perfectly understandable for parents to want their child home safe and sound. Also completely selfish and irresponsible to put 1027 terrorists back into action. One of the sacrifices a soldier makes is to put his life on the line. Swapping prisoners is one thing but the people Israel released were not soldiers captured in battle. These were terrorists arrested for attacks on soldiers and civilians.
And it seems as if Israel chose the most cold blooded miscreants to release. A sad day for
Peace and justice. Reply

Dr. Abe Simhony Chiang Mai, Thailand October 19, 2011

Musing on the Return of Gilad Shalit Although I disagree with many words in your article, I am as joyous and happy as you and all of us are at the release of Gilad and can only say AMEN to the last sentence thereof and add to it following words ".... promise of G‑d’s full protection of all the people of Israel and all other humans whoever and wherever they are! the ultimate joy of an era when war, murder and evil will be eradicated forever."

daniel SAN DIEGO, CA October 19, 2011

Very well written This article is logical, and understanding of both sides of this on one hand joyous, on the other gut wrenching, decision Reply

Josh New York, NY October 18, 2011

?? Is that "legally" possible? Military attainable?? Reply

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