According to Israeli media, Gilad Shalit is soon to be released from his long and inhuman captivity in the hands of Hamas. This gang of murderers has managed to terrorize all of us using one young Jewish boy.
The entire population of Israel awaits the moment of his release. Gilad has become the son of each one of us. He is “in our kishkes.” His empty bed is found in every Jewish home in Israel. We have embraced his parents, Noam and Aviva, who have made their way into our hearts. We cry and pray with them. We have all become Gilad’s parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters. Religious or secular, Sephardi or Ashkenazi, chassidic or modern orthodox, and even atheist, we all join hands and wait with inexpressible anticipation for him to fall into the arms of his parents, and so into ours. We will cry from happiness and dance in the streets, because by now the Shalit family consists of five million members living in one Jewish home, Israel.
Even as we discuss and quarrel about what price we are prepared to pay for his release, we all will be jubilant when the moment arrives. There are many who believe the Israeli government is making an enormous blunder by freeing hundreds of arch terrorists with blood on their hands. Yet they, too, will ultimately celebrate with the Shalit family and sincerely wish them mazal tov, while maintaining their belief that it is wrong to pay this price.
We all know the extreme dangers involved in this exchange. It is madness. The chances of renewed terrorist attacks and kidnappings are very high. It is irresponsible. We are aware of the risks to our children, our soldiers and our own lives in letting wild beasts such as Marwan Barghouti go free. These murderers will no doubt continue to do everything in their power to kill as many of us as possible. We are courting disaster by allowing them to go free.
And still, we will sleep more soundly and our collective mood will improve when this one Jewish soldier is brought home.
Why this madness of ignoring all the risks involved? Why this insane exchange? Because we are Jews, and one Jewish boy will be able to come home to his parents and his people. Nothing more than that. It’s what we are all about. Am Yisrael Chai! This is the unmatched, mad victory of Jewish compassion. It is what makes us special. Though we know it is asking for trouble and we’re shooting ourselves in the foot, and perhaps it is even forbidden, still, we can’t help it. We are overwhelmed by our love for one Jewish soldier, and all logic is suspended. Our moral grandeur, our neshomos compel us to do this. Why? Because all of us are his parents and parental love knows neither boundaries nor reasoning.
The world will not understand. It will label us crazy. Why free hundreds of bloodthirsty terrorists for the release of one soldier? Any civilized, self-respecting nation would sacrifice this soldier for the sake of national security. So why do the Jews do this? No one can see any justification for this suicidal exchange. There must be a reason why Jews punish themselves in this manner. It can’t be just the love for one soldier. So what can it be? Theories abound, but no one will ever comprehend it. No one, that is, besides the Jews. We understand. It is the mysterious Jewishness which makes us do this. It is this madness which has kept us alive for nearly 4000 years. Every Jewish child is all of Israel and more.
Sure, many of us say that we need to enter Gaza, destroy Hamas and bring Gilad out, whatever the price. We judge the Israeli government as weak for not doing so. And we may well be right. But nobody should argue that we give up on Gilad for the sake of security. It’s just not Jewish, and we don’t do that. No son will be left behind, not even dead! We are prepared to risk our lives and the lives of our children for him. Why? Because we are Jews and we speak another language.
To be a Jew is utterly inconvenient. We pay a high price to live as Jews. We must be exalted to be normal. We live in spite of peril. Our very existence is the refusal to surrender to normalcy. In that way, we can serve mankind and teach the world what needs to be done to secure the life of one human being. Perhaps one day the world will hear and become mad and eternal, like us.