Rabbis split on prisoner release

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner: Israel doesn't need to conduct negotiations for captives. The army is permitted to go to war to save even just one person.

October 14, 2011 02:43
2 minute read.
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner.. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Differing opinions have been voiced by a number of leading rabbis regarding the exchange deal for Gilad Schalit.

The influential Rabbi Benny Lau of the Ramban Synagogue in Jerusalem’s Greek Colony argued in favor of the deal on Wednesday, saying that the changing geopolitical situation of the Middle East meant that the circumstances of Schalit’s captivity were such that his life was in certain danger.

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Chief rabbi Metzger praises Schalit prisoner swap deal

Weighed against this, he said, “is the heavy cloud hovering above us of the potential danger to life to many people which will be caused by the release of bloody murderers who will be able to walk freely in close proximity to Israeli citizens, posing a threat to everyone.”

Although this poses a huge danger to the public, “It is still only potential danger which according to all halachic arbiters, does not overrule certain danger to an individual,” he said.

But, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, head of the Ateret Yerushalayim Yeshiva in the Old City of Jerusalem and a leader of the religious-Zionist community, said that the price was too high. “We can not approve the Schalit [exchange] deal with these conditions, he declared in reaction to the terms of the deal on Tuesday night. “Israel does not need to conduct negotiations for captives. We have an army and it is permitted to go to war to save even just one person.

“Our enemies will stop capturing soldiers when they understand that we are not prepared to release terrorists for them,” Aviner noted.


Jewish law places significant emphasis on the importance of redeeming captives, although the Talmud stipulates that they should not be exchanged for too high a price. Disagreement on the nature of this stipulation has led to differing halachic approaches to the issue.

Chief Rabbis Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar issued a statement on Tuesday night welcoming the deal.

“Together with all of the House of Israel, [we are] excited and happy at this great news of redemption and salvation,” they said. “We call on the entire nation to increase their prayers for Gilad ben Aviva and for all the brothers of the House of Israel who are held in captivity that the happiness will be complete and not accompanied by any pain or injury resulting from carrying out this deal.”

The endorsement of the deal by Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef was an important factor in the cabinet’s approval of the deal. According to some reports, Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with Yosef on Monday and convinced him to support the release of terrorists for Schalit. Yosef approved the deal and instructed Shas ministers to vote in favor of it.

Noam Schalit paid a visit to Yosef’s house late Tuesday night to thank him personally for supporting the deal.

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