The Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism shares in the great happiness of the Shalit family and of the entire Israeli people at the expected release of Gilad Shalit. Over the past five years, Reform communities in Israel have included a prayer for the release of Gilad Shalit in every Shabbat and festival service. Many communities, along with members of our youth movement and participants from the pre-army Mechina, have held Kabbalat Shabbat services at the tent set up in Jerusalem by the Shalit family, and have taken part in public activities calling for Gilad’s return to his home and his land. The government’s decision reaffirms the covenant between the State of Israel and its young citizens who serve in the IDF. The decision also manifests the ancient Jewish principle “whoever saves one soul, it is as if they saved an entire world” (Mishna, Sanhedrin 4 5). We congratulate the government on its decision, together with all those who worked openly and behind the scenes to bring Gilad home. Just two weeks ago, in the Haftarah for Rosh Hashanah, we read: “‘So there is hope for your descendants,’ declares the Lord, ‘Your children will return to their own land.’”
Like all the citizens of Israel, we are aware of the heavy price the State of Israel must pay in order to secure Gilad’s release, and of the possible consequences of this price. We draw confidence from the support expressed for the deal by the heads of the Israeli defense system, and thank all those involved in protecting Israel’s security. At this moment, our thoughts are with the families of those murdered in terror attacks, particularly those who will see the murderers of their loved ones released over the coming days. The Book of Ecclesiastes, which we read on the festival of Sukkot, teaches us that “there is a time to cry and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” The reality of life in Israel often requires us to laugh and cry at the same time; to dance while we are still mourning. We will continue to cherish the memory of the victims of terror even as our hearts fill with joy as God returns Gilad to his family.
As always, we pray that God who is Peace will spread the tabernacle of peace over us, over all Israel, over all the inhabitants of the world, and over Jerusalem.