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Israel’s Hostage Agony is Only Beginning

Photo: Chabad Lubavitch via Flickr
Photo: Chabad Lubavitch via Flickr
Yossi Klein Halevi is a Senior Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. Together with Imam Abdullah Antepli of Duke University and Jennifer Raskas, he co-directs the Institute’s Muslim Leadership Initiative. Yossi is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor and co-host with Donniel Hartman and Elana Stein Hain of the Institute’s award-winning podcast, For Heaven’s Sake. He is also the author of Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli

“On Saturday, day two of the phased release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas, an inexplicable delay occurred. An entire nation kept vigil by watching the TV commentators struggling to fill the airtime. Six long hours later, the emotional news anchor announced, ‘They’re coming home.’ She meant: home not only to their immediate families, but to all of us, the Israeli family.

Never before has Israeli society experienced anything quite like the emotional intensity of this moment. For Israelis, freeing hostages is the litmus test of our credibility as a Jewish state. The religious imperative of pidyon shvuyim, redemption of captives, helped Jews survive through thousands of years of exile and vulnerability. Diaspora communities that lacked military power to rescue fellow Jews from imprisonment or slavery would raise exorbitant funds to buy back their freedom from blackmailers.

Israelis in enemy captivity are an unbearable reminder of the helplessness of exile, a threat to the Zionist promise of Jewish self-defence. In 1976, Israeli commandos freed a hundred Israelis held prisoner by hijackers in Uganda’s Entebbe Airport. By transforming a hostage crisis into a reaffirmation of Zionist empowerment, the Entebbe rescue became emblematic of the Israeli approach to hostage-taking.

Today, though, there is no Entebbe-like rescue. Instead, we have been forced to temporarily suspend the war against Hamas and to release prisoners held for security reasons, some who are terrorists, receiving in return only a partial release of the 240 hostages seized by Hamas. Our inability to rescue them only prolongs the agony – and the shame – of the Oct. 7 massacre.”

Read the full article on The Globe and Mail.

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