Letter from Noam and Aviva Shalit to their son, Gilad Shalit, Jun 27 2006
Our dear, sweet Gilad,
Mom and Dad, Yoel and Hadas are very concerned for you, want to hear [from] you and are hoping you are well and feeling all right – as good as possible in your condition.
We are hoping you can read this, and we want you to know that everything possible is being done to bring you home to Mitzpe Hila and the Galilee, as quickly as possible, to your family, your room that’s waiting for you (and to help us with the B & B rooms).
Know that we’re thinking of you all the time and hoping you’re managing somehow and surviving these difficult moments.
We know and believe that whoever is holding you also has a family and knows what we’re going through and will know to watch over you and your health.
Loving you and encouraging you,
Mom and Dad
Talmud Gittin 45A
MISHNAH. CAPTIVES SHOULD NOT BE REDEEMED FOR MORE THAN THEIR VALUE, TO PREVENT ABUSES.16 CAPTIVES SHOULD NOT BE HELPED TO ESCAPE, TO PREVENT ABUSES.17 RABBAN SIMEON B. GAMALIEL SAYS [THAT THE REASON IS] TO PREVENT THE ILL-TREATMENT OF FELLOW CAPTIVES.18
GEMARA. The question was raised: Does this prevention of abuses relate to the burden which may be imposed on the community or to the possibility that the activities [of the bandits] may be stimulated? — Come and hear: Levi b. Darga ransomed his daughter for thirteen thousand denarii of gold.19 Said Abaye: But are you sure that he acted with the consent of the Sages? perhaps he acted against the will of the Sages.
CAPTIVES SHOULD NOT BE HELPED TO ESCAPE, TO PREVENT ABUSES. RABBAN SIMEON B. GAMALIEL SAYS, THE REASON IS TO PREVENT THE ILL-TREATMENT OF FELLOW CAPTIVES. What practical difference does it make which reason we adopt? — The difference arises where there is only one captive.20
Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg - A Historical Test Case
Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg was considered the most outstanding Jewish sage in Europe in his generation. In 1286, at the age of seventy, he was taken captive by King Rudolph I of Germany, and held for a ransom of 20,000 marks, an astronomical sum in those days.
Almost all of the rabbis and leaders of the European Jewish communities in that generation were students of Rabbi Meir, known as Maharam. He authored thousands of halachic responsa, as well as the Tosafot commentary to the Talmudic tractate Yoma. The most famous of his students was Rabbi Asher ben Yechiel, known as Rosh, whose rulings are cited extensively in the Shulchan Aruch.
It was precisely because the Maharam was so important a figure that Rudolph hoped to extort a huge ransom from the Jewish community. Indeed, the emperor’s evil scheme nearly succeeded: Maharam’s students and admirers were prepared to raise the sum necessary to free their master.
Their reasoning was based on the story cited in the Talmud concerning Rabbi Joshua’s rescue of the young child who became Rabbi Ishmael “at whatever price may be demanded.” ... the justification being that this was a matter of saving a life. A second justification provided by Tosafot is that due to the unparalleled scholarship of this child, which Rabbi Joshua already sensed, he was permitted to pay the inflated ransom.
The students of Maharam felt similarly: although the law forbids paying more for a captive than the accustomed amount, when the captive at hand is the leading Jewish scholar of the generation, and the entire community is in need of him and his wisdom, it is permissible to pay any fee.
Maharam himself, however, rejected this rationale, as he felt that this would lead to the capture of other Torah leaders. As explained by the 16th-century halachist Rabbi Shlomo Luria, Maharam feared that his ransom would lead to a much greater threat to the continuity of Judaism, should all the Jewish scholars be made easy bait for ransom to a point where the community would not have the money to ransom them, ultimately leaving them without any leadership at all.
Rabbi Meir died, seven years later (1293), in captivity in the fortress of Ensisheim.
The tragic saga of his imprisonment came to a close when his body was ransomed, 14 years after his death, by Alexander ben Shlomo (Susskind) Wimpfen, who was subsequently laid to rest at his side.
Poll: 79% of Israelis Support Shalit Deal, YNet News, Yedioth Ahronoth, 17.10.11
The vast majority of Israel's citizens are in favour of the deal securing the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for 1,027 terrorists, a public opinion poll commissioned by Yedioth Ahronoth shows.
Asked whether they were in favour of Shalit's release in exchange for 1,027 terrorists, 79% of the respondents said yes and only 14% said no...
Among male respondents, 74% support the deal and 19% oppose it, while 86% of the women support it and only 5% are against it...
Examining division of opinions within religious sectors, the survey revealed that seculars reject out of hand the inclusion of rabbis in such decisions (78%), the conservatives are divided to those who oppose such an option (43%) and those in support of including the IDF chief rabbi as a decision maker (41%), and the religious sector is in favor of incorporating the IDF chief rabbi (47%) or other rabbis (47%) in the decision-making process. Common view among the ultra-Orthodox community is that that rabbinical establishment's stance should be taken into account (83%).
Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaLevi Kilav, Techumim 4 (1983)
Furthermore, it seems that nowadays, when terrorists declare their desire to kidnap and murder Jews and, in fact, act upon these declarations without any compassion for the victims whether me, women or children, that releasing terrorists is actual danger and is therefore forbidden. This is true even according to those who maintain that [the prohibition] is based on “the burden imposed on the community”, since the danger [here] is tangible and arises immediately upon their release. Added to this is the fact that they join the forces that battle us from their countries with long range weaponry and thus represent a threat even if they don’t actually penetrate our borders. It therefore seems that it is forbidden to release terrorists and murderers in exchange for captives, not just an exchange of many [terrorists for one [Jew], but even one for one, because of the future danger.
Bloomfield, A., 2011. Palestinian militants vow to abduct a 'new Gilad Shalit'. The Telegraph, 18 Oct
The Popular Resistance Committees, the Hamas-dominated militant coalition that captured Sgt Maj Shalit, vowed that it would seize another Israeli soldier to force Israel to release the 6,000 Palestinian prisoners that remain in its custody.
"We are going to capture another soldier and cleanse all the Israeli jails of our prisoners," said a masked spokesman using the nom de guerre Abu Mujahid.
For many Palestinians, particularly in Gaza, the release of so many prisoners for one man is evidence that Israel responds only to threats, making the path of peaceful negotiation espoused by Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, and his moderate Fatah party nonsensical. "The people want a new Gilad, the people want a new Gilad," chanted the tens of thousands who gathered at a Hamas-sponsored rally in Gaza city to welcome home the freed prisoners.
(See 'Hamas Video: Training to Kidnap an Israeli Soldier': https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0zHyTBxwoU)
הרב יובל שרלו, אתיקה יהודית (כה): שחרור שבויים
ההשפעה המוראלית על הצבא עלולה להיות משמעותית ביותר. בשעה שיידע חייל כי לא נעשה הכל כדי לשחררו - כולל נכונות לשחרר רוצחים בתמורה להשבתו - תיפגע המוטיבציה שלו להילחם.
R' Yuval Sherlow, Jewish Ethics (25): Redeeming Captives
The impact on the morale of the army could be significant. Once a soldier knows that [the state] will not do everything it can to free him - including a willingness to release murderers in exchange for his freedom - it will diminish his motivation to fight.