Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, the chief rabbi of Safed, accused the family of Gilad Schalit on Sunday of weakening Israel by appealing to the public’s sentiment in order to ratchet up pressure on the government for a prisoner swap.
The remarks by Eliyahu, who has made a series of controversial statements in the past, appeared in Olam Katan, a special religious pamphlet distributed to synagogues across the country.
“One of the major factors contributing to the erosion of Israeli society was the atmosphere of ‘me as the individual’ and the loss of national identity,” Eliyahu wrote.
“The Schalit family and the group that put in motion the campaign around it [for the release of their son] enhanced this erosion,” he wrote. “It adopted an attitude of whining and playing on sentiment.
They blamed everyone [and] perpetuated the culture of ‘I deserve it.’ It was as if the only important thing to consider is today, not what happens tomorrow. As long as they get their son back, damn the consequences, even if it means that innocent civilians will pay the awful price. And the awful price has come. Three young boys were kidnapped.”
Eliyahu drew a comparison between the Schalit family and its vocal public relations campaign to pressure the government for their son’s release after five years in captivity, and the reaction of the families of the kidnapped youngsters who went missing 11 days ago.
“Today, a new spirit is blowing,” the rabbi wrote admiringly of the families of Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrah. “It is a spirit of might and heroism, a spirit of responsibility, a spirit of unity.
It’s a more responsible, healthier, more moral spirit. This spirit is alive and well in the army and the government, the Knesset and the entire public.
It’s a spirit of remedying the defects of the past.”
“This spirit is being fostered by the families of the young people,” the rabbi added.
“With quiet conduct, they have managed to tug on the heartstrings of the Israeli society and to rehabilitate it.
There are no accusations of guilt, no whining, no public pressure, no bitterness. What they do have is belief.”
MK Elazar Stern (Hatnua) condemned the rabbi’s comments, calling them “unfortunate to have been uttered at such a sensitive time.”