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Those Who Embrace Life – and Those Who Celebrate Death


RYEOctober 18, 2011

Dear Friend of Israel,

Tuesday was a joyous day for all of Israel and her friends. After being held captive for five years by Hamas terrorists, kidnapped Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit was returned home.

As Israel celebrated the return of one young man kidnapped while serving his country, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza gathered to celebrate the return of the hundreds of prisoners released in exchange for Shalit parading with Hamas flags, blaring music from loudspeakers on the back of trucks, and lighting fireworks. The atmosphere was jubilant.

Exactly whose release were the Palestinians celebrating? People like Ahlam Tamimi, convicted and given multiple life sentences for her role in the 2001 bombing of a Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem that killed 15 innocent people. Then there is Nasser Yateima, organizer of the horrendous 2002 Park Hotel bombing that took 30 lives. And Walid Abdel-Hadi, serving 36 life terms for his role in several attacks, including a 2002 bombing in a cafe that killed 11.

The freed prisoners were defiant. Ahlam Tamimi said, “Allah has chosen soldiers for him on this land and they are the soldiers? of (Hamas' armed wing) the al-Qassam Brigades. They are going to free all prisoners.” Another, Nimer Darwaze, proudly told the Reuters news agency, “The resistance is increasing and there are steps for the future. The resistance will continue until the victory.” You will search news reports in vain for any messages of remorse or reconciliation from these recently freed terrorists; “resistance,” for them, clearly means more terror.

What does this tell us about the Israelis and the Palestinians?

One of the most astute and clear-eyed observers of the Middle East around today, my friend Elliot Abrams, recently wrote, “Regimes, like individuals, are rightly judged by the company they keep and even more by the people they celebrate.” This rule applies to entire societies as well.

And so, as we Israelis rejoice in Gilad’s return, we are thankful to God. And we rejoice, too, that he returned to a country that so values life that it is willing to make unthinkably painful sacrifices to secure freedom for one unjustly imprisoned young man rather than to a society that celebrates those who deal in death.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein


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