Sukkot is called, z’man simchateinu, a time of our great joy. Today, a young man was returned to his family after five years. Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier, was abducted within Israeli boundaries near the Kerem Shalom crossing. On June 25, 2006, seven armed terrorists used a tunnel dug between Gaza and Israel to attack and kill two soldiers, wound five, and take Gilad Shalit. For five years, Gilad was allowed no contact with his family, the red cross or any other international organization to confirm his condition. But today, October 18, 2011, Gilad Shalit was returned to the arms of his parents, his family and his country and people.
We rejoice in his return, but yes there are concerns. Questions about the price Israel pays for the trade of one person for 1,027 prisoners. Is this price too steep? Should those who are responsible for the killing for Israelis be allowed to go free in order for one Israeli soldier to be returned home?
Since 1979, 6,566 Palestinian prisoners have been released for nine Israeli soldiers, ten dead soldiers, and one Israeli citizen. This is a high price to pay. However, as the Talmud teaches, to save one life is to save the whole world. (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5; Babylonian Talmud Tractate Sanhedrin 37a).
A life has been saved and a son has been returned. Yes, the cost is great and the emotions are very high on all ends. My heart aches for those families who lost loved ones and friends in the homicide bombings and attacks in Israel. But I ask this question: Knowing that those who have died can never be returned to their family, is it wrong to be grateful that a son was able to be returned to his parents? Should Gilad have been left in the hands of terrorists without any contact from his family, his country, the world? Knowing that there was the possibility to bring him home and back into their arms, could we really have just left him there?
Yes, the price may be very high and I have my reservations about the attitude we are starting to hear from Gaza and the West Bank. But, while we are alert, I hope that we can at least be able to enjoy this time of our great joy, z’man simchateinu, and just be thankful for this moment that Gilad is home, where he belongs.