Posts Tagged 'Gilad Shalit'

A Joyous Mother of Children: Gilad Shalit

Today Gilad Shalit was returned to his family. It has been hard to find words for what I imagine the feelings that Aviva and Noam Shalit had holding their son again. I could not imagine my life without any of our children. It is just crazy to realize that two of them were born during his captivity.

All day I kept coming back to a story told by Rabbi Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal in his book Eim Habanim Semeichah. In this amazing book Rabbi Teichtal refutes the anti- Zionism of his Hungarian Orthodox upbringing  and beautifully lays out a vision of redemption realized in a Jewish State of Israel. This story is long, but it is prescient and worth reading. Rabbi Teichtal wrote:

In the year 5702 (1942), before Pesach ( Passover), the cursed oppressors issued the terrible decree to abduct young Jewish maidens in Slovakia, age sixteen and older, and deport them to an uninhabited, unknown land. To this day, the fate of thousand of pure Jewish souls who were transported there is unknown. May HaShem speedily take vengeance on our oppressors, on our behalf. The camp of Israel was in a great state of panic.

I know of an incident in which a certain individual attempted to smuggle his young daughters over the border, to save them from this horrible trap. It was the intermediary days of Pesach, and he promised his wife that he would send a telegraphed message from across the border informing her that he and his children  had arrived safely. The mother sat at home anticipating and longing for the moment what she would receive the good news.  It happened, however, that before they crossed the border, the father and his daughters were seized and transported to a nearby village, where they were placed in prison. There, they remained for the duration of Pesach. They were in great danger of being sent off immediately to an unknown place, for that was the punishment for someone who was  caught attempting to escape; he would be deported to an unknown destination in a harsher manner than the other deportees.

In the meantime, his wife, the mother of the girls, was informed of the situation. We can imagine the bitter emotions which overcame her. Her joy at the prospect of deliverance was transformed into sorrow. Her holiday became a time of mourning for her husband and daughters. The entire holiday she cried endlessly. Her entire world became dark. It is impossible to describe the sorrowful state into which she fell from the time she became aware of her husband and daughters’ fate, for she knew what awaited them.

However, the brilliant, righteous, and pious rabbi, a true self-sacrificing servant of HaShem, our master, Rabbi Shmuel David Unger, the av deit din of Nitra, selflessly and vigilantly endangered his own life and labored until he redeemed these three captives with a large sum of money. May he be remembered for the good. On the last day of Pesach they were set free and permitted to return home, unharmed and in peace. This distraught woman was immediately informed, via telephone, that her husband and daughters were set free and that they would return home the next day, isru chag,unharmed  and in peace. It is needless to describe what sort of effect these good tidings had upon the soul of this unfortunate woman. From that moment on, she waited expectantly for the father and daughters to return home.

The following day, she was unable to restrain herself and wait for them inside the house. Instead, she sat by the entrance of the courtyard and, with great anticipation, awaited the moment of their return. When they arrived, she burst into tears and overwhelmingly poured out all the emotions of her heart. On account of the profuse outpouring  of emotions, she was unable even to utter words of thanks to the Holy One Blessed be God for the great miracle God performed on their behalf. He who did not witness this  reunion – the mother reunited with her daughters after such a dreadful captivity, the tears of the mother when she saw that her daughters had returned to their borders, the joy of the joyous mother of children – has never witnessed true feelings of joy. This is what I know about this incident which transpired in our days.

I imagine that such will be the joy of our mother, Eretz Yisrael, when we all return to her bosom after the horrible captivity we now experience. This is how I picture the wondrous joy that a mother will share with her children, that is, Eretz Yisrael with us and we with her. Hence I entitled this work Eim Habanim Semeichah ( A Joyous Mother of Children). (from  Eim Habanim Semeichah- Translated by Moshe Lichtman)

Completed by 1944, Rabbi Teichtal’s words are hauntingly relevant today. This story transpired exactly 70 years ago this Pesach. In this time we  have realized that dream of Jews from all over the world finding a home in Israel.  In Gilad Shalit’s return home we  reconnect to the ideals of Zionism. The steep cost of his ransom awakens us from the dream of these last 70 years.

Today I got a wonderful e-mail from my sister Arielle Hendel who wrote of her connection as a parent to Gilad Shalit’s return. She wrote:

The joy we feel is tempered by the high price we paid to release him.  All of the relatives of the victims of the released terrorists are reliving their personal nightmares of loss without justice or redemption.  The Knesset’s decision was not easy but it underscores the value that Israel puts on a single life.  Gilad was everyone’s concern – he became our son, his redemption is ours. Finally, I am reminded of Golda Meir’s famous words, ”Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.”

Today the joy of Sukkot is overshadowed by the joy of a mother at the return of her captive son. I still believe in my heart that we will only experience sustained joy when the Palestinians love their children as much as we love our own.

Tikkun Olam Compromised

In 1787 James Wilson and Roger Sherman proposed a compromise at the Philadelphia Convention in which three-fifths of the enumerated population of slaves would be counted for representation purposes regarding both the distribution of taxes and the apportionment of the members of the United States House of Representatives. This came to an end in 1865 with the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which abolished slavery .

While I realize there is a historical context for slavery both in America and in the Bible, as a religious Jew it is still hard to imagine the institution. How could one not recognize that every single person is created in the image of the Divine?  Every single life is a whole world and necessarily not worth more or less valuable than another. While slavery is hard to imagine, for some reason the notion that there was a 78 year period in American history where  one person was worth 3/5th another seems even harder to imagine. What are the implications of evaluating people’s worth in this way?

So , you ask, why the history lesson? While I am guarded optimistic and truly happy about the pending release of Gilad Shalit, I am also horrified by the deal.  Long before we appropriated it as the Jewish civic religion, in the Mishna Tikkun Olam was the reason given for not to do this deal. Will this create an incentive for capturing more Jews?  I would love to see Levitt and Dubner take a Freakonimics go at economic system of ransom. While this make me live in fear, this is still not what disturbs me so deeply.

It seems obvious the Palestinians will have and really deserve a land of their own. For Israel to have peace with their neighbors, their neighbors need to understand their own self worth. What is the message being given to the Palestinians in this deal? They are not even worth 3/5 a Jew. One of them is worth 1/1026th of a Jew.

In this situation, I do not fault the Shalits, Israelis, Palestinians, Jews, or Muslims. They all want to fix their own world. We all want our native sons returned.  My thoughts were best described in Dr. Martin Luther King’s  Letter from a Birmingham Jail. He wrote:

 I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.

For all of history the Jew has been scorned for imaging that s/he is chosen, but what is the market value of a Jew? And much worse then that, what has world allowed to happen to the value of the Palestinian? I realize that there are existing tensions between the two people who live in the land of Israel. I am horrified at the moderates of the world who have aided in creating this market place.

We are willing to bail out Greece, but we are not will to bail out the Palestinians. This deal like ones before it will bankrupt the national value of a people. How will we ever have peace with anything other than an equal partner?

I am not even getting into the discussions of any single one of these terrorists as compared to an IDF soldier. All I am saying is let them pick anyone they wanted, it would just have to be one for one. Where are all of the human rights people now? Do they not see the horrible injustice being perpetrated against the Palestinians  by dehumanizing them to this level? While Israelis and Palestinians are responsible for the conflict and need to reach a compromise. We cannot tolerate a Three-Fifths Compromise. Humanity cannot be compromised. The equality of everyone needs to be the foundation of a lasting peace. The moderate themselves might be the great stumbling block in this stride toward freedom.


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