Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Double-Edged Dream

I stayed awake as long as I could, close to 3:30 a.m. listening to the rapid-fire Hebrew patter of the Ynet anchors. Gilad Shalit was passed from Hamas to the Egyptian authorities. The International Red Cross was monitoring the progress of the transaction. Shalit was met by an IDF representative. His family was gathering. Medical personnel were standing by.

Unable to stay awake, I fell asleep before Shalit entered Israel and was reunited with his family though the photographs of the Shalit family waiting for their son made my heart overflow with prayer that he arrive whole in spirit, body and mind.

Declared healthy, this young former captive is thin and pale and weak...no surprise for someone held in a Hamas cell for five years. Further medical tests will probe his fitness further. There is a limp, possibly from the confrontation that led to his capture. Something appears to have happened to one of his hands. More insults to his body and mind might be revealed.

Over the past week, since the deal was announced, I've read pundits and predictions on all sides of this terrible negotiation. Stating the obvious, the prospect of terrorists being released is not only galling on a moral level but carries significant risk. I cannot think of anything to add to the debate other than expressions of sympathy for the families of those killed in terrorist attacks. Whatever they say or think is wholly justified. The murderers of their loved ones have gone free together with Shalit.

Listening to the news last night I found myself slipping into a realm of magical thinking, recalling my childhood belief in the possibility of Biblical miracles, the kind wrought for Israel by God. I considered a Jericho-like tumbling of walls, a plague, a brilliant military strategy worthy of King David dealing immediate justice to those released killers. I summoned up Samson in the temple of the Philistines, taking down the entire murderous nation before I realized that Samson's heroic act was one of martyrdom.

When I was a teenager, I found myself obsessed less with Biblical justice than with the ethics of survival during the Shoah. Of particular fascination to me were stories of Jewish women who slept with Nazi officers to save themselves or family members.

I was appalled. I was intrigued. I asked myself whether I could ever become a Nazi's whore to earn my life or the wellbeing of my family. I pondered the suicide pact of the 93 Jewish school girls from the Beth Jacob (Bais Yaacov) school in Warsaw who chose death over defilement with Nazis soldiers. I determined that I would have only pretended to take the poison, knowing myself to be a coward, preferring to gamble with my body for the sake of my life.

Maybe Israel has become a Nazi's whore. Maybe the purist solution was the one chosen by the girls who ingested poison and maybe I have no moral compass. It is true that negotiations with the devil have never gone well.

But it is also true that in the epic battle between Good and Evil, Good ultimately wins. The body count may be high but Evil is eventually vanquished.

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