Abraham the Patriarch gave his life to save Lot who had been captured by the four kings.
(Genesis 12: 12).
The children of Israel fought Arad, the Canaanite king who occupied the Negev, after he had taken Jews into captivity. (Numbers 31: 1-3)
King David went to war to save his family from captivity. (Samuel I 30:2)
Redemption of captives comes before the livelihood and shelter of the poor, as there is no greater Mitzvah than the redemption of captives, for the captive is among the starving and the thirsty and the naked and is in mortal danger. And whoever shuts his eyes to his redemption commits these offenses:
"Thou shalt not harden thy heart nor shut thy hand from thy needy brother; but thou shalt surely open thy hand unto him." (Deuteronomy 15: 7-8)
"Thou shalt not stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor." (Leviticus 19: 16)
And the Mitzvah of: "And thy brother may live with thee." (Leviticus 25: 36)
"And thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." (Exodus 19: 18)
And, "Deliver them that are drawn unto death." (Proverbs 24: 11)
Chazal, the Hebrew sages, said: "It is forbidden to redeem captives for more than their worth before tikun olam (repairing the world)."
There are three exceptions to this rule:
If the captives are Torah scholars
If they are in imminent mortal danger
If the public is duty-bound to redeem them due to the circumstances of their capture
The question of price is at the center of public debate
During the Chazal (Hebrew sages) period – Money in exchange for captives
1948-1982 – Soldiers in exchange for soldiers (between countries)
Since 1982 – Terrorists in exchange for soldiers
On the one hand:
“… And He brought us out of bondage to freedom.”
"One who saves a single soul it is as if he has saved an entire world." .
"All Jews are responsible for one another."
On the other hand:
The question of price
Should we pay any price? What’s a reasonable price?
The question of a public threat
What danger to the public is created by releasing terrorists?
The question of punishment
What’s the significance of punishment and deterrence?
Past prisoner exchange deals:
26 th of March, 1983:
Eight Nahal soldiers were returned from Lebanon
In exchange for: 4,700 terrorists and 65 prisoners
20th of May, 1985: The Jibril Deal
Three [live] captured soldiers (Hezi Shai, Yosef Grof and Nissim Salem) were released
In exchange for: 1,150 terrorists
19th of January, 2004 – The Tannenbaum Deal
Three bodies of IDF soldiers (Benny Abraham, Adi Avitan and Omar Suede, z”l) were returned along with the [live] abducted civilian, Elchanan Tannenbaum
In exchange for: 400 Palestinian and 23 Lebanese prisoners, including the infamous Mustafa Dirani and Sheikh Abdul Kareem Obeid
And the children shall return to their borders…
And let us pray…
"Our brothers of the House of Israel, who are in trouble and in captivity, whether at sea or on land, may G-d have mercy on them and lead them from distress to relief, from darkness to light, from bondage to redemption, and so may it be in the near future.”