This past week, a very famous Israeli soldier was finally returned from captivity. Gilad Shalit, for those of you who are unfamiliar with him, was captured by Hamas militants in June 2006 near the border of Gaza and held captive until last Tuesday. Over the past five years, his family worked tirelessly to advocate for his release, elevating him to iconic status in the Jewish and Israeli communities. Videos of Shalit were released by Hamas to prove he had not been killed, stoking the hope his family, friends, and millions of Jews around the world had for his safe return. But hope was all anybody ever had, until Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime Minister, announced last week that solid negotiations for his return were in the works. Elation is a pretty accurate word to describe the mood among Jews and Zionists around the world when the deal actually went through, and Shalit was finally back on Israeli soil.
However, getting Shalit back home was no easy task- when a rescue mission didn’t seem feasible, negotiations with Hamas did. And so over 1,000 prisoners—Palestinian and Israeli-Arab terrorists—were released from captivity in Israel and returned to Gaza in exchange for Shalit. 1000 lives for one. These terrorists were in jail for a reason; they had murdered Israeli soldiers and citizens, among other crimes. The Shalit family deserved to have their son returned to them, but what about the families of the people killed by these terrorists? Did they deserve to have their son or daughter’s murderer freed? Is justice essentially being undone?
On the other hand, the seemingly imbalanced exchange was a testament to the value Israel places on the lives of each and every one of its people. In the context of the number of lives traded from both sides, Israel considers Gilad Shalit to be at least 1000 times more valuable than a Hamas militant. Some may think that Israel acted irrationally when it made this deal, but it also displays strong diligence and deep caring on their part.
Personally, I’m not sure where I stand. I was initially excited for Shalit’s return; I can’t imagine the grief and terror his family felt while he was gone. But I also can’t imagine the grief the families of the soldiers who were killed by the freed terrorists still feel to this day. If you haven’t done so already, take a look at my fellow Considerer Lauren Opatowski’s thoughts on the topic.
(Photo courtesy of Israel Defense Forces under a Creative Commons license)