Exchanging Prisoners for Gilad Shalit

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I was going to write a blog post on prisoner transfers when I realized that I had already written one over a year ago (link). Let’s discuss how the six positions listed in the earlier post come into play in the Gilad Shalit case.

Before we begin, however, it should be noted that we are not discussing a single life. We are addressing the lives of every soldier and every Israeli citizen. The question revolves around how much we can give in to the demands of the enemy and whether we will be endangering even more people by doing so. Can we sacrifice dozens of lives in order to save one?

1. According to R. Yehudah Gershuni, we cannot release any dangerous prisoners in exchange for a captured Israeli — even a soldier.

2. According to R. Ovadiah Yosef it would be allowed to free a captive in certain danger.

3. According to R. Chaim David Halevi, the enemy will continue to kidnap Israelis regardless of whether we exchange prisoners so there is no problem in doing so.

4. According to R. Yaakov Kamenetsky this is not allowed during a time of war because it will strengthen the enemy.

5. According to R. Shlomo Goren, it isn’t clear. He allows prisoner exchanges for a soldier who is capture while on a mission. My understanding is that Gilad Shalit was not on a mission while captured. It could be that R. Goren would not allow a prisoner exchange in this case.

6. R. Shaul Yisraeli allows prisoner exchanges to free any soldier, regardless of whether he was on a mission. R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach reportedly agreed with this position. This view might also allow releasing prisoners even to obtain only information about a captured soldier, if that will improve soldier morale.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Editor of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student currently is serving his third term on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and also serves as the Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazineand the Board of OU Press. He has published four English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

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