Gilad Shalit is to be released soon. Thanks be to God. But his release comes at an awful price. Israel is releasing 1,027 “security prisoners” – the term used for those Palestinians arrested for terrorism-related activities. Among these, 280 have blood on their hands, meaning they actively have participated in murdering Israelis.
Scanning the names of those terrorists to be released, I noticed the name of Ahlam Tamimi. Miss Tamimi is not a freedom fighter. She’s not a political prisoner. She is a craven and unrepentant murderer. In August of 2001, she drove Izz al-Din Shuheil al-Masri to the Sbarro pizzeria in downtown Jerusalem, where he detonated his suicide bomb belt. I was in my first year in seminary and living in Jerusalem then. These are the names and ages of my murdered neighbors from that attack:
Giora Balash, 60
Zvika Golombek, 26
Judy Greenbaum, 31 (an American citizen from Passaic, New Jersey)
Tehila Maoz, 18
Frieda Mendelsohn, 62
Michal Raziel, 16
Malka Roth, 15
Yocheved Shoshan, 10
Lily Shimashvili, 33
Tamara Shimashvili, 8
Mordechai Schijveschuurder, 43
Tzira Schijveschuurder, 41
Ra’aya Schijveschuurder, 14
Avraham Yitzhak Schijveschuurder, 4
Hemda Schijveschuurder, 2
In 2006, Tamimi told Israel’s Yediot Achronot newspaper that she was not sorry for what she’d done and that she does not recognize the existence of Israel. Despite being sentenced to 16 terms of life in prison, she predicted she would be free. Turns out, she was right.
The morning after the bombing, as my classmates and I gathered for morning prayers and read the names of the dead – the third, fourth, and fifth members of the Schijveschuurder family – we wondered what kind of monster could do something so depraved. What kind of hatred compels a human being to do this? The monster’s name is Ahlam Tamimi. And her hatred is terrifyingly common. There are 279 other Ahlam Tamimis set to go free from Israeli prisons in the coming days. 279 other demons to be loosed on the world. 279 other stories of murderous hatred and inhumanity.
Please understand, I am not critical of the decision made by Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli government. I rejoice in Gilad’s impending freedom and look forward to seeing the anguish on his parents’ faces replaced by joy. His life is worth saving. Were it one of my boys in a hole in Gaza – a hell I can’t even imagine and don’t want to try – I, too, would beg the government to give up whatever it took.
But I do think it important to realize what Israel is giving up for the sake of one boy. Agree or disagree with the policy, we must have the moral clarity to say that this deal is painful to all people who love peace and justice. Necessary, perhaps. But awful. The injustice of the whole situation – Gilad’s kidnapping from within Israeli territory, the conditions of his captivity, the cruelty of his captors, the ongoing Palestinian attempts to abduct still more Israelis – should infuriate us. And should, in the final analysis, lead us to act!
Rabbi Jonathan Greenberg is the new Director of Advocacy at The Fellowship. Jonathan previously served as the Midwest Political Director for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), where he was responsible for building pro-Israel political activism in 95 Congressional districts across nine states. He is a member of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the Chicago Board of Rabbis. Jonathan, his wife, and their two sons live in Northbrook, IL.