I was cooking on the eve of the Sukkot holiday when one of my friends called, "Are you listening to the news in the kitchen?" No.
"Gilad Shalit is coming home."
I almost dropped my pan of chicken.
"About 1300 Arab terrorists are going to be released in exchange for Shalit."
My head was spinning. The first thing I did was whisper a silent prayer asking G-d that Gilad really come home safe and sound and that this should be the beginning of all good things for our people, our soldiers and our nation. And I asked G-d outloud to protect us all from evil.
A SOLDIER'S MOTHER
Then I called my friend, Cheryl Mandel, whose son - an Israeli Defense Forces officers - was murdered a decade ago in Shechem (Nablus) when he and his soldiers went to capture wanted terrorists.
I asked her if she knew if the terrorists who killed her son Daniel would be released for Gilad Shalit. She explained that the Arab terrorist who shot Daniel was killed during the operation nine years ago. The two others that were involved had been sent to prison. One had already been released and she didn't know the fate of the second.
"How do you feel about all this?" I asked.
Cheryl said, "If I could get Daniel back even now almost ten years later, I would do anything. I am happy for the Shalit family. No one should ever be in their shoes. They did everything they could to fight on behalf of their son."
"And yet," Cheryl admitted, "I'm worried about the price that's being paid for his release."
She said one more thing, "I have to congratulate the Shalits for being able to always keep Gilad on the front burner of the Israeli government and the Israeli public. That took tremendous effort, but it helped bring their son home."
I agreed with Cheryl. I am very happy for the Shalit family. I am very grateful to Hashem that Gilad Shalit would be released, IY"H, from the hell that he has been living for the past five years.
Gilad Shalit is everyone's son. Most Israelis have sons in the Army. We send them with faith in G-d, but with heavy hearts because we know that Israeli soldiers put their lives on the line for our people every single day. If G-d forbid anyone's son was kidnapped, that parent would want what the Shalits wanted - his son home no matter what the price.
But that's where a government and generals come in - they're supposed to want their soldier back and do anything possible to get him back. But they're also supposed to make sure the price they pay is not too high.
Over the past years folks talked about getting Gilad Shalit back by turning off the electricity in Gaza, turning off the water, bombing terrorist headquarters, flattening streets one by one. What happened to that? I'm sure the Army had its own plans and even tried who-knows-what (we'll probably find out in twenty years). But meanwhile nothing worked, and all kinds of political considerations went into this deal - trying to prove that the Egyptian government is legitimate, trying to get Hamas back into popularity, etc..
As everyone was clapping themselves on the back for suddenly being so involved in Gilad Shalit's release I thought of Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu. He's responsible for the safety of every single Israeli, not just Gilad Shalit. He's responsible for the safety of every soldier. He must have been tortured since he came into office (and especially in the past few weeks) trying to figure out how he could get Gilad Shalit home. He has surely been tossing and turning, saying the names of the Jewish victims of Arab terror whose murderers were about to go free.
He has probably held his head in his hands saying to himself, "What should I do? Can I allow the perpetrators of the Ramallah lynch and others like them to go free to murder again? But can I let Gilad Shalit remain in the depths of hell? Our soldiers are depending on me. But our nation is depending on me to keep them safe. How can I allow terrorists out of prison? But how can I not do everything possible to bring our soldier home?"
I don't envy the Prime Minister. No matter what he does is wrong. And when the media begins rolling the celebration parties held throughout the world when the Arab terrorists will be freed, the Prime Minister, the State of Israel and the Israeli Army will be laughing stocks.
G-d forbid, if a terror attack happens, millions of people will say, "We told you so. Statistics show that Arab terrorists return to terror. You knew it would happen."
Israelis everywhere can fall back into the Fear Mode - being afraid to go out of their homes or towns, being afraid to let their children out of their sights, being afraid to go to town or to any gathering. But I am asking my brethren not to be afraid. Reach deep into your faith.
The Jewish people have been in terrible straights time and again over the last four thousand years, and we're still here. Bad things happen, but good things happen too, and B"H we're still here.
There's only one thing to concentrate on as Gilad Shalit returns home and our people brace themselves for the possibility, G-d forbid, of danger ahead. Pray for G-d's help and then declare, "Am Yisrael Chai (the Nation of Israel lives)."
Am Yisrael Chai, we live and IY"H we will live on forever and one day hopefully soon, we will greet the Meshiach and rebuild our Holy Temple.
May G-d watch over the Jewish people and bring home Gilad Shalit, Jonathan Pollard and all our MIAs today.