Release of Our Captive for Hundreds of Terrorists, God Forbid
I have written a number of times in the past that it is forbidden to release several terrorists for one of our captives, or as the Sages have said (Tractate Gittin 45a): “We do not redeem captives for more than their worth because of ‘tikun olam’”. I added that it is forbidden for the troubles of the individual to override the interests of the general populace, for if, God forbid, hundreds of terrorists are released in order to redeem him, hundreds of others will enter the cycle of bereavement and pain in his place. I wrote that this was the prayer of the High Priest in the Holy of Holies, asking that God not hear the cries of the individual at a time when the general populace is in despair.
However, some people countered that, indeed, this is the case in a regular situation, but when dealing with a soldier, not redeeming him would likely cause severe damage to the morale of other soldiers, for if they knew that not ‘everything’ would be done to redeem them if they fell captive, they would not be ready to enlist and go out to battle.
However, the truth is exactly the opposite. The majority of those who claim that it would damage the morale of the soldiers are those who in any case do not enlist into combat units and therefore the left-wing media supports them. On the other hand, the majority of combat soldiers think that the release of hundreds of terrorists is what will damage the morale.
Can Army Generals be Trusted?
I was further asked: Don’t we have army generals who are experts in the field of defense who know what is best for the security of Israel, and what is damaging to the morale? Why do rabbis have to express their opinion on this issue?
There are two answers to this: First, there is no area upon which the Torah does not have a position, however, in many areas the position of the Torah establishes the principle of an issue, whereas the implementation is handed over to the experts – in military matters, to the senior officers. However, in our present situation, the generals themselves have proved that their judgment cannot be trusted. They did not properly warn before the retreat from Lebanon or Gush Katif, or before the Oslo agreements. Almost all of the disasters which occurred were surprises for them. In actuality, their evaluations depend upon what is written in the non-religious, leftist newspapers. In other words, they are experts at reading newspapers of a certain type, and they also excel in flattering certain reporters. Only a few outstanding senior officers succeeded in climbing the ladder of success without completely destroying their judgment. Those few officers really did warn of impending danger, but they were not listened to, as is evident from the important book written by the former Chief of Staff, Minister Moshe Ya’alon – which, not by accident, has been ignored by the media.
In such a situation, rabbis are obligated to get into the thick of things and to caution about the imminent danger Israel faces from the release of hundreds of terrorists for our one captive.
Once Again, the Falsifiers
Once again, it has been proven to me, and this time, personally, that the non-religious, leftist media (‘tikshoret’ in Hebrew) is indeed ‘tishkoret’ (falsifiers), at least in matters concerning the national-religious public. I “merited” having an article written about me in the newspaper ‘Yediot Achronot’, and not even one thing was reported correctly. Everything was maliciously distorted. An allegory can be made of a merchant who makes mistakes in his calculations. If he sometimes errors in his favor, and other times in the favor of his clients, one can claim that he occasionally gets mixed up. However, someone who always errors in his own favor – when he calculates how much others owe him, he always mistakenly asks for more, but when he figures how much he owes others, he always shortchanges them – he is a liar.
For the benefit which can be gained, I will present one topic that was written about me in ‘Yediot’ compared with the actual truth.
As Reported in ‘Yediot Achronot’
In ‘Yediot Achranot’, 3rd of Kislev, 5770 (Friday, Nov. 20, 2009), three reporters, Tzvi Zinger, Yehudah Shochat, and Tzvika Brot, joined forces and wrote: “In contrast to other leading rabbis in Yehudah and Shomron, Rabbi Melamed served only four months in the I.D.F., at a later age, and he is not embarrassed by this. The reason for his shortened service was a lowering of his physical profile as a result of an injury following a clash with I.D.F. forces when he was a youth. ‘When I was about 17 years old, I participated in the ascent to Huwara’, Rabbi Melamed is used to telling. ‘During the evacuation, a number of soldiers dragged me in different directions, while another one stepped on my arm. Apparently, I screamed, went wild, and kicked, and then the soldiers left me alone. The army lowered my profile to 45 and automatically cancelled my enlistment. This was very humiliating; however, the struggle over the settlements is no less important than high standard army service.’”
The Real McCoy
An innocent reader could think that these reporters were diligent and reached one of the students who could testify that I am “used to” telling this incident, as if it were a miracle story. The truth, however, is that I am not used to speaking about this – it’s not a pleasant story to tell – but rather, I wrote about it in my newspaper column “Revivim”, on the 20th of Av, 5768, in order to comfort the youth, as I will explain further on. The reporters copied what they chose to copy without citing the source, something that a respectable reporter would never do. This is what I wrote:
“This is perhaps the time to tell the reason why I never merited being a combat soldier. When I was about 17 years old, I participated in the ascent to Huwara. During the evacuation, a number of soldiers dragged me in different directions, while another one stepped on my arm. The pain was terrible; the bone in my upper arm became dislocated. Apparently, I screamed, went wild, and kicked, and then the soldiers left me alone. After a few minutes, with the help of a paramedic, the bone was replaced. After a few days the pain was gone, but my arm didn’t feel like it should have. Occasionally I would experience dislocations. A few years later when I was in my fifth year at Yeshiva Merkaz HaRav, I planned on going into the army for 6 months in either the artillery corps or as a combat engineer. A day before induction, during a medical check-up, they discovered that I suffer from recurring dislocations and lowered my profile to 45, immediately cancelling my enlistment. This was very humiliating. Until then I thought I was fit to be a combat soldier, perhaps even an officer. All of a sudden it became clear that I wasn’t… In any case, in the framework of recruiting Yeshiva students at that time, one could only be enlisted into a combat unit. Had I insisted on enlisting, I would have had to been recruited for three years in a non-combat unit. It was clear to me that for the benefit of ‘clal Yisrael’, it was more important to continue studying Torah in the Yeshiva and postpone being recruited to ‘shlav bet’ (a later and shorter enlistment). Thus, I merited studying continuously for a few more years.
“In actuality, even the security of Israel was not damaged by this, for in the merit of my additional years of study without interruption, I was prepared to become a community Rabbi and establish a Yeshiva, which has already turned out hundreds of students who have served, and are presently serving, in combat positions in the army. Indeed, I suppose that even had I enlisted for 6 months, I would have followed in the same path, but apparently the additional months of study strengthened my devotion to my task.”
How They Deceive
I don’t expect the reporters to copy everything, however, a selective copying of certain segments, which creates a maliciously deceptive picture, is a lie. Since I knew this was their custom, I refused to be interviewed by them. It will be interesting to see what they write about me in the future.
The Value of the Settlements
Having already repeated this story, I will mention the connection to its publication. At the time, a number of students turned to me for advice. As a result of their actions on behalf of settlement in Gush Katif and Amona, the army was ‘threatening’ not to enlist them. In order to encourage and comfort them, I revealed my personal story, and concluded with these words: “If I could go back in time, I would once again participate in the settlement activity, refusing to be evacuated, willing to be injured – in spite of the pain and the certain disability. The struggle over the settlements is no less important than high standard army service. I say this not because I belittle the mitzvah to enlist in the army, but rather, because of the important value of the struggle over settlement in Judea and Samaria, which is no less important than serving in the army.
Nevertheless, there is good news: The status of ‘Yediot Achronot’, the non-religious, leftist media giant, is weakening. From the days when the majority of Israeli citizens read ‘Yediot’, and was considered by many to be a monopoly, it is now rapidly deteriorating. According to the renowned media survey TGI, four years ago, 59.5% of the public read ‘Yediot’ on the weekend, while today, only 45.9% read it. Four years ago, 43.7% read the daily paper, while today, only 34.2% read it. In other words, a downfall of approximately 22% in four years. According to this promising rate, in another ten years it will fall to less than 10%. We can even hope that in the future the speed its downfall will be even faster, sinking in public opinion till we are rid of its punishment. Or, in the meantime, some repentant buys the newspaper out, and then his reporters and investigators begin to “suck up” to their new master.