Redeeming Captives

The question of the hour is, is any price too high for pidyon shevuyim, redeeming captives? With rumors afoot (once again) of a deal for the return of Gilad Shalit, the IDF soldier whose kidnapping sparked the ongoing incursion into Gaza, this is now being debated in political circles.

Apparently some 800 prisoners — or, according to some reports, over 1000 — may be released from Israeli jails in return for Shalit. This number is said to include many women — but as we have seen, woment can be suicide bombers too. It also includes many in jail for decades — but one doesn’t end up in jail for decades by throwing a few rocks. Michelle Malkin reports that Israel’s Terror Victim Association considers this an extremely bad idea.

How many of those released will return to terror, putting more lives at risk? Will this embolden the terrorists for the future, or might the terrorists think twice before doing this again, given Israel’s reaction? [Hezbollah’s Nasrallah conceded that had he known Israel would respond with such ferocity, he at least would not have gone forward with his plan.]

These are the open questions…

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14 Responses

  1. YM says:

    Does the Israeli government have data on the number of times that people have been caught, released and then committed terrorist acts again? Perhaps they can actually predict statistically how many terrorist acts will result, and plan accordingly

  2. charedilite says:

    800 Arabs/Muslims for 1 Israeli/Jew? Won’t the EU and UN complain about disproportionate prisoner exchange? Normally, when things are ‘traded’, one can establish an equilavency of value between what is traded. I think all humanitarian organizations should object to this deal, because it implies that an Arab is only worth 0.125% of what an Israeli is worth.

  3. mycroft says:

    I have a very close relative who works in Israel in an area that keeps track of statistics-he told me that the belief is that 130 people have been killed by those released in prisoner exchanges AFTER their release.

    Personally, I believe that Israel and frankly the Jewish community encourage kidnapping by putting it as so important for them. They should follow what the Maharam Mrouttenburg did.

    BTW Fox news did not do wall to wall coverage when their correspondent was kidnapped. They stated after release it was intentional-better chance to have them released.


    Yaakov: There is a lengthy halakhic literature on just this issue which I am sure you are aware of. Why didn’t you at least mention it?

  5. Shira Schmidt says:

    13 b Ellul
    I found some references on pidyon shevuyim at

    Additional primary-halakhic-sources can be found in “Shabbat Ne’edarei Zahal: A Compilation of Materials for Prayer and Activism”, prepared by the Union of Orthodox Congregations of America. The sources which were selected by rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schachter, include:
    Gittin 45a, 58a (+Tosafot: Kol Mammon)
    RAMBAM: Hilkhot Rotzeiach 7:8 (+ Or Sameiach, ad. loc.)
    Pitchei Teshuvah, Yoreh Deiah 252:4
    Responsa: Kenesset Yechezkel, no. 38
    Rabbi Yehuda Gershuni: “Pidyon Shevuyim le – Or ha-Halakhah”, HaDarom 33 (1971), 27-37.
    Yisrael Melammed: “Pidyon Shevuyim Meiaz uveYameinu”, Shanah BeShanah (1986), 241-246.
    Rav Avraham I. HaLevi Kilav: “Releasing Terrorists”, Crossroads: Halacha and the Modern World. vol. 1 (Gush Etzion, 1987), 201-210.
    Additional essays on the halakhic and legal aspects of Pidyon Shevuyim can be located either in Otzar HaMishpat (vol. 2, p.198; entries #3225-3247), or in the Multi-Language Bibliography of Jewish Law (p.466; entries #23-26).

  6. Baruch Horowitz says:

    I summarized some sources and reasoning on Rabbi Rosenblum’s thread, which are quoted by Rabbi Alfred Cohen in “Ransom or Exchange of Prisoners” in Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society(Fall, 2003).

    Another reference mentioned there is an article by Avraham Yitzchak Kalev in Techumin IV p. 114(and another in XIII p. 258 by a Natan Ortner). This first sounds like it might be the same reference Shira Schmidt mentions.

  7. Bob Miller says:

    Is this a matter for bloggers or commenters to opine on or does this call for a psak halacha for the specific cases at hand?

  8. Baruch Horowitz says:


    It definately calls for a pesak halacha for each individual case, especially since it’s denei nefashos. Nevertheless, the essays published on the topic can be helpful to anyone who would like to trace the issues involved to the Gemara and Poskim(Rabbi Cohen concludes his essay with the tefillah that such topics should merely be academic). Also, I think that any blog discussion should take into consideration the Halachic issues and Torah sources, as Rabbi Rosenblum mentioned on his post.

  9. Joel Rich says:

    I would assume that the UTJ members of the government have asked a shailah in the past so as to give proper input to the government. Perhaps one of the blog’s well connected authors could summarize the response.

  10. Aryeh says:

    Besides, since when does the Israeli government base its decisions on psak halachah? Any psak rendered by anyone is completely irrelevant to whatever actually happens. So why bother issue one?

  11. Jameel @ The Muqata says:

    These may be open questions, but the answers are highly predictable.

    Releasing terrorists in an exchange for IDF soldiers or releasing terrorists to promote “peace”, is a perversion of justice and will only encourage more kidnappings.

    And bringing up the issue of “women” prisoners is rediculous – they deserve no better than their male counterparts who try to murder Jews. Because they are female they deserve to be released?

    Tzedek, Tzedek tirdof.

    If you mixed-dance with the devil, don’t be surprised what shows up tomorrow.

  12. Joel Rich says:

    So you’re saying that the UTJ members of the government have asked a shailah in the past so as to give proper input to the government and the response from their rabbinic leadership was “since when does the Israeli government base its decisions on psak halachah? Any psak rendered by anyone is completely irrelevant to whatever actually happens. So why bother issue one?”?

  13. Bob Miller says:

    Truth has value in itself whether or not some government accepts it.

  14. Aryeh says:

    Joel, I’m not sure what UTJ leadership asks or doesn’t ask it’s rabbis, as I’m not even remotely connected to anyone who’s connected to them. So I can’t tell you anything about that. I’m sure that if the government wants to know what their position and their “proper input” matters on any given issue then they do ask their rabbis. But there are many issues on which the government doesn’t ask or care about what their position is. So do they ask a shailah in that case? I don’t know.
    Will the government want to know what UTJ (who’s not even in the government) stance on this is and base its decision on that stance (even partially)? It doesn’t seem very likely. They might ask Shas, although nothing about that appeared in the news so far AFAIK.

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