Friends of terror victims: Releasing murderers puts others at risk

List of prisoners to be released includes two Palestinian prisoners with "blood on their hands."

prisoner release 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
prisoner release 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
The names of two Palestinian prisoners with "blood on their hands" are on the list of 200 security prisoners slated for release as the government's goodwill gesture to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and the friends and relatives of their victims are not happy about it. One of the two prisoners is Muhammad Abu Ali, who in January 1980 shot and killed newly arrived Danish immigrant Joshua Saloma, 20, in Hebron. Rabbi Eliezer Waldman, who served as Saloma's teacher and as his father away from home, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday about his relationship with Saloma. "We first met when Joshua was 14 years old. He [had] participated in Bnei Akiva seminars in Scandinavia that I was taking part in, and there I had the chance to learn who he was. At the age of 18, Joshua came with his Bnei Akiva group for a training period in Israel that included studies in the Hesder Yeshiva in Kiryat Arba. Pretty soon Joshua became an outstanding student, who fell in love with the place's unique atmosphere and the Torah studies. "Eventually he decided to stay [behind] when his friends went back to their countries of origin. He served in the army, and after active military service he came back to the yeshiva and was happy there, despite the unaffiliated Jewish family he came from," Waldman said. But Saloma's happiness didn't last long. In January 1980, two days before Tu Bishvat, Saloma went to the market in Hebron to buy dried fruit for the holiday, and never returned. Saloma was one of the first settlers in Hebron to be killed by Palestinian activists. Following his death, a settlement was established in his memory at the casbah in Hebron, where he was murdered. Saloma's parents and sister came to Israel to bury him on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. "I simply cannot understand how they [can] even consider releasing murderers. To send back hundreds of prisoners just like that, and for what? Where is the moral, the intimidation factor? This murderer was sentenced for life. Why let him and his friends go when we know most of them will renew their terror activity?" Waldman said. "This shameless and irresponsible behavior puts in danger the lives of other Jews. This government keeps failing time after time." The other prisoner whose release was approved by the ministerial committee on Monday is Sa'id al-Atba, who 31 years ago led a group of Fatah terrorists that set off an explosive device in the market in Petah Tikva, killing Russian immigrant Tzila Galili, 54, who had made aliya only four years earlier. Galili's son Ziama Kaplan first learned about the government's plans to free the man who had murdered his mother from the media on Sunday. Atba was arrested in 1977 and is the longest-serving Palestinian prisoner in Israel. "Of course we are mad," Kaplan told the Post on Monday. He refused to comment further. A third prisoner considered for release was Akram Manssur, who was arrested in 1979 after he and another attacker killed reserve soldier Yitzhak Joseph Trumpeldor. Manssur was also sentenced to life, but the ministerial committee did not approve his release. Meir Indor, chairman of Almagor, an organization that advocates for terror victims' rights, said: "This government beats its own negative records. A month after it released [Samir] Kuntar and three other murderers in [the] Goldwasser-Regev swap deal, it releases two more people who killed Israelis. The Israeli people will be those who pay the price of this government's gestures."