As we went to press this week, Israel’s cabinet was reportedly debating a deal that could lead to the imminent release of soldier Gilad Shalit, held in captivity since a cross-border raid in 2006.
Accounts of the deal suggest that Hamas would release Shalit in exchange for some 1,000 Palestinians currently being held in Israel. As in the past, such deals divide Israel, between those who believe that the government must stand behind a promise to soldiers and parents that no soldier will be left behind, and those who believe such deals expose soldiers to harm, the government to blackmail, and the country to attacks from released prisoners.
Whatever side you come down on, don’t forget the obscene calculation made by Hamas and its ilk: Knowing full well how Israel values the lives of its sons and daughters, they have played a cynical five-year game of bait and switch, ratcheting up emotions inside of Israel and turning neighbors against neighbors, parents against politicians. Too often the world forgets grotesque asymmetries like these and how much Israel has been willing to give up not just for peace, but for each one of its citizens.
Making sure Israel’s side of such stories is heard and told is the subject of the Step Up For Israel Advocacy Summit, to be held this Sunday at the Aidekman Jewish Community Campus in Whippany. Experts in advocacy will lead discussions and workshops on how best to defend Israel and to tell its story in the public arena. American Jews may not have a direct say in Israel’s democratic debates over life and death, war and peace. But they can acquire the tools to shape discussion of those debates among their neighbors and the media. To register, contact CRC@ujcnj.org or visit www.ujcnj.org/summit.
Following the somber mood of Yom Kippur, Sukkot celebrates the long journey of liberation and freedom that began with the exodus from Egypt. May Gilad Shalit soon taste that freedom, may Israel’s borders know peace, and may its inhabitants enjoy tranquility.