Prisoner Exchanges – When Dealing With Bitter Enemies of Israel

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Revised Mon, 4 December 2023 after sunset = 22nd of Kislev, 5784

Part 1: A Letter Signed By 4 Prominent Rabbis on the Deal to Release Hostages for Many Hamas Terrorists and Pausing the War

With Heaven’s assistance – 8th of Kislev 5784 (Tue, 21 November 2023)

To the Dear Families of the hostages, peace and blessing!

We are all with you as one man, “Secretly my soul will weep … my eye shall weep sore and run down with tears, for G-d’s flock has been captured”.

We pray with all our hearts for the peace of our beloved sons and daughters who are in trouble and captivity at the hands of a cruel enemy, and are looking forward for G-d’s salvation in their return to the warm embrace of their families, being healthy and intact.

In response to your inquiry regarding the pending transaction, we express our opinion and strengthen your hands in the principled statement that the government must not submit to terrorism and blackmail.

The cessation of hostilities at this stage, while submitting to the dictates of the enemy, constitutes a serious danger to our soldiers and all the citizens of the country, allowing the enemy to arm himself and lift up his head, and might cost a lot of blood and even thwart the victory.

The Torah of Israel teaches us a responsible security doctrine: “You have no greater mitzvah than ransoming captives”, but one must not agree to blackmail that leads to serious troubles in the future.

Stopping the war now is an exorbitant price that should not be agreed to. We all saw the bitter results of irresponsible deals in the past, in which they released murderers who then came back to hurt us.

The right policy for the hostages today is to continue the war with all our might without stopping, striving to eliminate the terrorist organizations and increase the pressure on the enemy as much as possible in order to reach a position of strength that will allow us to determine the conditions, and to bring about G-d willing, the release of all the hostages.

The Holy One Blessed be He, will answer us and hear the sound of our cry, and fulfill through us, “And the redeemed of Hashem shall return and come to Zion with joy, and the happiness of the world will be upon their heads, joy and happiness they will achieve and agony and sighing shall flee”.

Speedily in our days, Amen.



Rabbi Dov Lior Rabbi Yitzchak Ginzburg


Rabbi David Druckman Rabbi Eliyahu Zini



Part 2: The Disasters (based on an article by Rabbi E. Melamed)

The first was the Jibril deal in 1985, when 1,150 terrorists were released in exchange for 3 IDF soldiers. The releasees spearheaded the First Intifada, which broke out less than 3 years later. In 2004, the deal with Hezbollah released Elhanan Tenenbaum and 3 IDF bodies in exchange for 450 terrorists, including Sheikh Obeid and Mustafa Dirani.

Prime Minister Netanyahu

Over the years there were various other deals, but the deterioration continued, peaking with the Gilad Shalit deal in October 2011. The commander of the Hamas military wing, Ahmed Jabari, said that the released prisoners were responsible for the murder of 569 Israeli civilians. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and 26 other ministers supported the deal, three opposed: Avigdor Lieberman, Moshe Ya’alon, and Uzi Landau.

Within a few years, many of the terrorists who were released to Judea and Samaria returned to engage in terrorism, and apparently hundreds of Jews were killed by them. And the terrorists who were released to Gaza, led by Yahya Sinwar, initiated the murderous attack on Simchat Torah on the communities near Gaza, in which more than 1,200 were killed. The war that Israel is now waging to destroy the terror monster they created, still has not ended.

Please My Brothers, Do Not Make Things Worse

Great efforts must be made to release all captives, but not at the cost of endangering thousands of soldiers and civilians. It is difficult to blame the families of the captives – their grief is unbearable. Those helping them raise the issue abroad are doing holy work. However, those demonstrating inside Israel and claiming in the media that the government must do “anything” for the captives’ release – they strengthen the enemy, and endanger our soldiers at the front. Who knows, without them, perhaps the enemy would have already compromised? But when they hear of protests, the enemy understands they have much more power, they raise the price, demand we stop fighting, while our soldiers take more risks, and chances diminish for redeeming all the captives.

Editor’s Addition:

In Jewish year 5730 (1970), Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner, his wife, daughter and son-in-law were aboard a New York bound flight from Israel that was hijacked by a Palestinian terror organization. The terrorists released the non-Jewish passengers and, after one week, the Jewish women and children. Rabbi Hutner and the rest of the men aboard the flight were held captive in Jordan for a total of three weeks. 

Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetzky, one of the Torah greats and the head of Agudath Israel in the U.S.A., opposed the payment of a huge ransom for the release of Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner.

Rabbi Hutner’s students had raised a huge amount of money and tried to work with the U.S. authorities to pay a high ransom price to free their rabbi. They based their efforts on the Halacha which states that the rule “The captives must not be redeemed beyond their value” does not apply to an outstanding Torah scholar. Rabbi Kaminetzky opposed their actions, with sound reasoning:

That this calculation is not right at all.  Because the law concerning how much to pay to redeem captives is only applicable in times of peace, but at the time of war it cannot be said that we are obliged to stop fighting in order to redeem the captives with money, because by doing so we are helping the enemy in the middle of the war, because by giving the large sum of money to the enemy, the enemy will have the capability to further strengthen their position in the war.

Michael Vigoda adds to this: “And all the more so by releasing terrorists”.

Appendix: In A Hypothetical Situation Where Good Leaders Provide Some Logical Reason that Giving Some Concession to the Terrorists Will Win the War

Question: What if we had good leaders and good generals who actually put the value of winning the war above other considerations, running the state of Israel? What if they would say we need to make temporary concessions to the enemy to win the war?

Answer: If he is around when actually good leaders come to power in Israel, we would send that question to Rabbi Dov Lior.