Gilad Shalit Visits 50 “Lone Soldiers”

Former kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit visited the Nefesh B’Nefesh offices in Jerusalem yesterday to meet with 50 Lone Soldier Olim from across the world. In an informal gathering, Gilad expressed his support and admiration for these brave young men and women who hail from countries including the USA, Canada, Australia, Costa Rica, Norway, Mexico, South Africa, France, Argentina, Brazil and Spain and are serving in various units such as Infantry, Intelligence, Paratroopers and Communications among others. “I admire each one of you for what you are doing for our country. Your decision to leave your families and friends and make Aliyah on your own and join the army is truly courageous and admirable. Although you are far from your own families, you are not alone — we are all one family and are here to support you and make you feel most welcome as Israeli citizens,” he said.

More after the jump.

“We are very excited to have Gilad Shalit with us, and are also very proud to be the home for Lone Soldiers serving in the IDF, taking care of all their needs in Israel and providing them with ongoing support. We thank the IDF for their partnership in this important project,” said Vice Chairman of Nefesh B’Nefesh, Erez Halfon.

The FIDF/Nefesh B’Nefesh Lone Soldiers Program, in collaboration with the Jewish Agency for Israel and KKL, assists newly arrived soldiers with their transition into their new lives in Israel and national service, by offering guidance, social and emotional support, quarterly care packages, adoptive families and financial aid, as well as assistance to parents of Lone Soldiers in the form of information and support.

Founded in 2002, Nefesh B’Nefesh in cooperation with the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency for Israel, is dedicated to revitalizing Aliyah from North America and the UK by removing or minimizing the financial, professional, logistical and social obstacles of Aliyah. The support and comprehensive social services provided by Nefesh B’Nefesh to its 33,000 newcomers, has ensured that 97% of its Olim have remained in Israel.  

Honoring Our Veterans


— by Hannah Lee

Today we observe Veterans Day.  May we all remember and honor the service given to our country by these brave men and women in uniform.  They upheld the values of our country and, as young as they were when sent into service, they gave it all they had.  We owe it to them to remember their service.

On October 18th, I attended a ceremony dedicated to the 14 Jewish chaplains who’d fallen during service to the United States.  Their names are engraved on a plaque that was on exhibit that day at the National Museum of American Jewish History and a week later was installed on Chaplains Hill at Arlington National Cemetery.  The moving moment for me was the sight of the aged veterans, in full military regalia, snap to attention and salute the flag while we recited the Pledge of Allegiance.  Being a child of the 60’s, I grew up in an era when we distrusted authority (and anyone over 30).  Saying the Pledge was perfunctory and maybe also ironic.  Singing the national anthem invariably induced some jokester to call out, “Play ball.”  But it was no joke for these veterans of America’s wars.  They remember their fallen comrades and why they were posted to foreign lands, regardless of whether it was the right strategic move.  The values they upheld were of civic and religious freedom (and the “pursuit of happiness” which our religious forefathers did not mean the right to shop until we drop).

More after the jump.

The 14 Jewish chaplains include:

  • World War II: Rabbi Alexander Goode; Rabbi Herman L. Rosen; Rabbi Henry Goody; Rabbi Samuel D. Hurwitz; Rabbi Louis Werfel; Rabbi Irving Tepper; Rabbi Nachman S. Arnoff; and Rabbi Frank Goldenberg;
  • Cold War Era: Rabbi Solomon Rosen; Rabbi Samuel Rosen;
  • Vietnam and Southeast Asia: Rabbi Meir Engel; Rabbi Joseph Hoenig; Rabbi Morton H. Singer; Rabbi David Sobel.

Recently, when I attended a private tour, “Journey on the Silk Road” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Cynthia John, who’d created this tour, referred to the Holy Roman Empire (quoting Voltaire, says my young friend) as “not holy, not Roman, and not even an empire.”  Later, I asked John to elaborate but she only had time to say that the Mongols, who’d transformed far-flung agrarian societies into an urban one based on commerce, were an example of a real empire.  Nobody loves his emperor, but people have managed to forge strong allegiances to other entities, whether a religious icon, a culture, or a sports team.

My Rabbi has said that one can deduce much about other people’s values by their passions.  So, what do we know about people who wear apparel– even religious garb– emblazoned with an athletic team’s name? That they value sportsmanship or the thrill of victory (or maybe the agony of supporting the underdog team)?  Just how different are the various teams from each other?  A similar example of artificial distinction occurred during the recent political discussions about gerrymandering in my state, when I heard one woman express her wishes thus: we should just use rectangles in drawing our electoral districts, because then we would be sure that they are fair (or at least, not subject to political jockeying for power).  When I was first introduced to maps as a child, the states with the straight lines were the easiest to remember and to draw.  But, they do not connote any real distinction between the bordering states.  More socially relevant were the rivers and mountains which may have contributed to variations in dialect, climate, and terrain.  

At the museum ceremony, Rabbi Lance Sussman of Keneseth Israel Congregation spoke about the historical role of Jews in the American military, from Asher Levy petitioning to serve in the militia in New Amsterdam in 1657 (appeal initially denied, later granted) to the Jews who served in the American Revolution to a Jew being in the first graduating class at West Point (one of two graduates!).  In World War II, there were 500,000 Jews in the American Army, compared to a half million Jews who were conscripted in the Soviet Army.  One overlooked fact by revisionists who question the minor public role of American Jewry in the rescue of Jews from Nazi-controlled lands is that American Jews served at double the percentage of its share of the national population.  Their view was that the best way to help was to ensure victory for the Allieds, to defeat the Nazis.  These Jews served with bravery and distinction.  Of the 14 rabbis honored, Rabbi Alexander D. Goode was one of four chaplains (including Reverend George L. Fox, Reverend Clark V. Poling, and Father John P. Washington) who gave up their lifejackets when their ship, the USS Dorchester foundered and later sank in 1943.  They were honored as “the Four Immortal Chaplains” and were depicted on a U.S. postal stamp in 1943.

We do not have mandatory military service, so most Americans feel distant from our soldiers and other members of the armed forces.  A contrasting case in point was the Israeli public’s view of the release of Gilad Shalit, held captive as a political prisoner in Gaza for 5 1/2 years by Hamas militants.  Israelis overwhelmingly approved of the deal that exchanged one Israeli soldier for 1,027 Palestinian and Israeli Arab prisoners.  With mandatory national service, every Israeli is but one degree of separation from an active Israeli soldier.  The negotiations for Shalit’s release were based on a tacit promise to all Israeli parents that their government would watch over their soldiers.  Their government would not forget them in captivity or in memorial.  

When The Choice is Life

— by Ilan Chaim

There is no dilemma in freeing one captive at the possible future cost of endangering the lives of others, even by exchanging his freedom for the freedom of convicted murderers.

The moral imperative to choose life deals with fact, not supposition. We are commanded to save a life, not to worry about the possible consequences that releasing a number of murderers may or may not have on other lives.

We are called upon to deal with certainty: that Gilad Shalit lives and his life in continued captivity is in danger.

More after the jump.
Some people oppose the exchange by arguing that the price is too high. Some cite rabbinical disputes over redeeming prisoners for too high a price, as if there is any relevancy to such a medieval calculus. Such reasoning is a world away from how a sovereign Jewish state must defend itself and the soldiers who risk their lives to protect it.

These moral bookkeepers calculate that, in previous such exchanges, a certain percentage of terrorists were recidivists who murdered Jews again. While this is true, it ignores the fact that we live with the reality of terrorism all the time, independent of possible prisoner exchanges.

A grim example of this truth is the fact that the Fogel family was recently massacred by freshmen terrorists, not recycled monsters who had been traded for Jewish prisoners-or as in one abominable previous case, their corpses.

There is a gruesome corollary to this perversion of the traditional Jewish calculus-that saving a life is like saving a world-one that would reduce the value of a human life to something measurable on a profit and loss balance sheet. This new math states that one actual life cannot be worth many potential lives.

A most frightening expression of this sinisterly emerging new value is a rumor relayed to me by my son, now in his third year of compulsory service in the IDF. He told me there is an “understanding”-not yet an official protocol-that if soldiers in combat cannot prevent a comrade from being taken prisoner, they should shoot him in the head. Better a dead hero than a live bargaining chip.

This hideous rumor is but a reflection of the morality of those who would devalue human life by assigning greater value to a potential, unknown, future danger to the lives of many over the clear and present danger to the life of one.

There are others-some of the bereaved who lost loved ones to the actions of some of the very terrorists who are about to be exchanged-who oppose the exchange not on the grounds of future possible danger, but because in their anguished eyes the terrorists have not been punished enough. They have not done their time.

This second attitude, while understandable, is even more lacking in moral justification than opposition on the grounds of hypothetical danger. For those who would keep Shalit in a Gaza dungeon just so their own tormentors would remain in Israeli prisons are ultimately seeking to do so out of vengeance. Will ensuring that a given terrorist murderer continues to serve 15 consecutive life sentences bring any Jew back to life?

Trading murderers for Gilad Shalit will save one Jew’s life. That is a fact we can all live with.

The writer is a former chief copy editor of The Jerusalem Post.
 

White House Statement on Gilad Shalit


— White Press Secretary Jay Carney

Nearly five years have now passed since Hamas terrorists crossed into Israel and abducted Gilad Shalit.  During this time, Hamas has held him hostage without access by the International Committee of the Red Cross, in violation of the standards of basic decency and international humanitarian demands.  As the anniversary of his capture approaches, the United States condemns in the strongest possible terms his continued detention, and joins other governments and international organizations around the world in calling on Hamas to release him immediately.