A Whirlwind Tishrei

A Whirlwind Tishrei

Last Tishrei I wrote about my adventures, traveling and getting settled in Israel. It was an incredible time for me. I was embarking on an extraordinary journey into myself and my Judaism.

This Tishrei has been markedly different. I am back in the states, working hard for the Jewish community and have a lot going on. But I forced myself to stop and reflect this year as Rosh Hashanah approached and then Yom Kippur. We moved into Sukkot feeling fresh and ready to handle the new year… and then I was truly caught by surprise. I saw grumblings on Twitter that Gilad Shalit, the boy who was kidnapped in a cross border raid by Hamas FIVE YEARS AGO, was going home.

Insert Jaw Drop Here.

The tent Gilad's parents manned during his captivity.

I just couldn’t believe it. I walked past the tent where his parents sat, outside the Prime Minister’s house in Jerusalem, so many times.

We tied yellow ribbons on our backpacks. We wore Free Gilad t-shirts. We tweeted the days, hours, minutes he had been held as a kidnapped prisoner. We begged Hamas to allow the Red Cross to see him, as it states in international law that any enemy combatant is allowed visits from the Red Cross… it is required for prisoners of war… but no. Only two videos from him in five years. He was allowed to write two letters home in that time. We came to this point many times… will Gilad be released this time?! Is he even still alive? I doubted it. It was just more human capital for Hamas to spend.

Palestinian prisoners being released, holding a child relative.

Then it was announced Israel would be releasing 1,027 Palestinians to retrieve one man. Now these aren’t petty thieves. They are murders. Murders that have been tried for their parts in bombing of CIVILIAN locations in Israel. Who were found with bombs strapped to their bodies, off to kill civilians in Israel and (Thank G-d) their bombs malfunctioned. Of the 1,027, 300 prisoners serving life sentences for involvement in deadly attacks on Israelis such as suicide bombings in buses and bars. These were people who were tried and convicted. And yet, they were treated better than Gilad. They were given three meals a day that were nutritionally significant. They were allowed exercise and to interact with other people. Many of them left the prison with higher degrees, earned in jail.

Gilad Shalit arriving in Israel and saluting the Prime Minister

What about Gilad? We treated the prisoners with due process and rights. How was our son treated? He was severely malnourished, sun deprived, and kept in solitary confinement for FIVE YEARS. They came home tanned and healthy, as if they had been on a holiday. Gilad fainted on the helicopter and walked with assistance.

They try to murder us every day. In fact, one woman who was released told a group of children… CHILDREN!!! “I hope you will walk the same path we took and God willing, we will see some of you as martyrs.” Meaning, I hope you blow yourselves up and DIE so you can kill Jews and Israelis.

And yet we would give all these people up to have one boy back. I feel like that speaks to character on both sides very clearly. One side celebrates children blowing themselves up along with innocent civilians and the other values one life so highly, that they put the country in danger by releasing 1,000 murders.

Now I need to clarify one thing. I am not saying that all Palestinians are evil or want children to blow themselves up. My family has very dear friends in East Jerusalem who used to call themselves Arab Israelis but now call themselves Palestinians. They are amazing people and I cannot imagine one of them intentionally causing harm to the Israelis.

Gilad and his father with the Prime Minister

I am also not saying all Israelis are innocent. I have heard the rhetoric and it disgusts me. The skirmishes in the settlements gets us no where. However, that is not our majority and while some fanatics take lives, it is not on the scale of the Palestinians nor is it a part of the education system in the broader country. I once saw a Palestinian school book where the math section said, “I there are 10 Israelis and I kill seven, how many Israelis are there left to kill?” That is not healthy for anyone.

I am disturbed by this deal almost as much as I am overjoyed to have Gilad Shalit home. But I can’t muster any hope that this eternal war will find a resolution that does not cost many, many lives. Anyone who has been to Israel has seen the undertones… the bubbling anger on both sides. I just pray to G-d that is does resolve and that neither side loses too many sons and daughters in the process.

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Comments

  1. Beautifully expressed. We have been having an e-mail class discussion on this issue. I’ll be sharing your blog, which I think expresses what many of us are feeling.

  2. Well-said. A painful choice, among many that Israel has made and will continue to make in the future.

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