Fishel Jacobs
Black Belt Champ Turns Rabbi, Author/Speaker

Hamas Hostages Aren’t Israel-Held Terrorists

Inside Israeli prison. (courtesy)
Inside Israeli prison. (courtesy)

Why This Piece, Now

Currently, the issue of exchanging hostages held by Hamas in Gaza for the release of terrorist inmates in Israeli custody is a burning discussion worldwide. Understandably, an otherwise uninformed public may assume an incorrect correlation.

In other words: Hamas returns civilian hostages. Israel releases terrorist inmates. Sounds even. Like any bartered deal between consenting equal parties.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Hamas Is Proudly Cruel

Hamas intentionally documents its inhumanity and brazenly publicizes it fully. They have done so for decades. Everyone has viewed their mortal attacks on innocent elderly, women and children. 

They scrutinizingly documented and published: October 7, 2023.

They yearn for the world to see their glee in killing, rape and suffering. To levels, probably, the Nazis would have shunned.

Someday, they will face the Creator for it all. Today, they are facing the Israeli army for it.

Why This Piece

For 13 years, I served as a Major in the Israeli prison service. I oversaw many thousands of Islamic terrorists. Upon retiring, I published a memoir of my experiences.

Following is an excerpted chapter. It’s being republished here to counter a mistaken correlation. Hamas-held civilian hostages is not an equivalent to Israel-held Islamic terrorists.

Coffee Melts Bars – My Israel Prison Career. Rabbi Fishel Jacobs


Chapter 3

Me, Mom & Islamic Inmates

“You better be careful,” my mom said. “You have Islamic terrorists in your prison.

Even through our overseas phone call, I heard the nightly TV news in the background. She was watching attacks going on in Israel.

“Are you going to write about them in your upcoming book?”

“Not sure,” I said.

I really didn’t want to write about Islamic terrorists. Not because we didn’t have enough of them. As of this writing, mid-2006, many thousands are incarcerated in Israeli jails, military compounds and the prison service.

“Do you have contact with them?” she asked.

“Yes, morning till nighttime, five days a week. I’m an officer. They’re in my prison, just like all the other prisoners.”

The author inside an Israel prison.

“Why don’t you write about them?”

“Frankly, I have no empathy for them. I don’t know how they’re depicted in the U.S. media—idealists, martyrs, whatever. You probably don’t know that many of them have criminal records.”

“No one knows that.”

“It’s no secret. But you’re probably not reading that in the media. Many terrorists are also just common criminals.”


“It’s public knowledge. Look at their rap sheets. You often find extended, violent criminal records way preceding their terrorist activity. Car theft, drug trafficking, smuggling. I have some terrorists who’ve spent their entire lives in heavy crime. Their present situation is just another imprisonment. Crossing from regular to security crimes is not a far jump. Reasons? Some people just like violence. Greed is a strong motivation—Islamic organizations compensate financially well. Self-esteem is a huge motivation. If you’re going to jail, anyway, it’s more ‘respectable’ under a nationalistic façade. Kill an Jew.”

An Islamic prayer room inside an Israeli prison.

The subject came up again with another friend, Stan, who isn’t Jewish, back in Vermont.

“Who are all these Islamic groups anyway?” he asked. “There’s a million of them!?

“They pop up like viruses in the winter,” I said. “The main players have been Fatah, Hamas, Hezbollah.”

“Until Arafat died in 2004, his Fatah aka PLO, was the most dominant,” I continued. “PLO’s leaders’ personal profiteering and extortion have been reported so often, there’s no need for me to look it up or you. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said in 2002, ’Frankly, the Palestinian Authority, which is corrupt and cavorts with terror . . . is not the basis for a Palestinian state moving forward.’”

“The world, including the US, is pumping billions of tax payer dollars into Gaza humanitarian aid,” I continued. “It’s disappearing into PLO leaders’ personal pockets. It’s politically correct to ignore that.”

“In January 2005, Gaza showed its disgust of PLO by voting Hamas into power,” I said. “Hamas is humanity’s waste. They specialize in civilians: suicide bombing buses, cafés, shopping malls. Everywhere women, elderly, kids congregate. The U.S. State Department, labels Hamas a terrorist organization.”

“Oh…,” Stan said disbelievingly. “Numbers?”

“The Israel army website reports from September 2000 to January 2006 there were 972 attacks.”

“Serious?! he gasped. “Israel is only the size of New Jersey!”

“Correct,” I said. “The outcome is: 7,633 injured and 1,084 dead.”

My mind raced: that totals 8,707.

With a population of six million, that’s a .14511 %.

“Considering the U.S. population as 300 million, percentage wise that would translate into 435,329 injured or dead Americans,” I said. “Of a 19 million population in New York that translates into: 27,570. Of a 33,871,000 population in California that’s: 49,150.”

“Sick. Stop!” he said. “No one knows the history of these things. What about Hamas?”

“Hamas was founded in 1987 by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. He was held in the Marash prison hospital while I was serving there.”

“You saw him?”

“Daily, for years. We used to push his wheelchair around. He was a paraplegic. I was shocked when Israel freed him. I knew he would continue doing bad things.”

We pushed the Hamas founder’s wheelchair around, he was a paraplegic.

“Smart,” Stan said. “Someone enters prison with radical ideology, why would he change inside prison!?”

“Yassin was born near Ashkelon, Israel, in 1929,” I said. “He was educated’ in Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt. Influenced by Islamic and Arab nationalist movements he joined the Muslim Brotherhood. In 1989 he was suspected of murdering Palestinians collaborating with Israel and of ordering the execution of two captured Israelis. Israel tried and sentenced him to life in prison. In 1997 Israel released him for humanitarian health reasons and in exchange for two Mossad agents who were arrested by Jordan. This was on condition that he refrain from calling for suicide bombings.”

“Sounds naïve,” Stan said.

“Fatally. He immediately resumed calls for suicide bombing against military and civilian targets. On March 22, 2004, under a policy of ‘targeted interception,’ Yassin and his bodyguards were killed by Hellfire missiles launched by an Israeli helicopter gunship. Israel’s Defense Minister called Yassin ‘the Palestinian Bin Laden.’ He said, ‘If we’d balance how many more terrorists Yassin would have sent, and terrorist attacks he would have approved—weighed on the scales—we acted rightly.’”

“There’s nothing this bizarre in the West. How do they work?”

“Hamas presents itself as community-minded: work out of mosques, raise money, organize activities, do “social work” within their communities. Where money is sparce, this kind of thing gets the grass roots level behind you. They get volunteers.”

“And . . .”

“They make financial promises to them and their families. Then send them to do suicide bombings.”

“My stomach hurts. Is there any organization to this insanity? Anything written?”

“Hamas has a thirty-six-article covenant. Issued on August 18, 1988, it’s viewable online. The preamble says: ‘Israel will continue to exist until Islam obliterates it, just as it destroyed others before it.’ Article 6 says: ‘Hamas strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.’ Article 13 says: ‘So-called peace initiatives, and solutions contradict our principles. These are merely a means to appoint infidels as arbitrators in the land of Islam. The only solution is holy war, Jihad.’”

“You’ll love Article 12,  ’ I continued. “It reads: ‘Repelling the trespassers from the holy land is the individual duty of every Moslem, male or female. A woman may go out to fight the enemy without her husband’s permission.’”

“I hope they don’t take that seriously,” Stan said.

“Deadly. The women’s prison, Neve Tirza, where I served for three years, is full of female suicide bombers.”


“. . . of bombs that didn’t detonate, or apprehended beforehand,” I said. “Seeing women in prison is disgusting. It’s sicker thinking how low you have to be to send them out.”

Viewing inside a cell in an Israeli prison.

Another friend back home told me, “You really have to write about terrorists in your book.”

“Stop!” I said. “Is everyone trying to goad me into this?! My book focuses on the good I tried to do for inmates. Can you all just leave me alone?”

“Hezbollah is all over the news,” she said. “If I don’t hear it from you, where am I going to hear it.”

“Now, I’m an information desk.” I laughed.

“Yes, we have tons of Hezbollah,” I said. “They’re from up north in Lebanon. Hezbollah was formed in 1982. It’s considered a terrorist organization by Israel, Canada, England, and the U.S. It’s funded and directed by Iran. Hezbollah is dedicated to destroying Israel and establishing Islamic rule in its place.”

“Remember,” I continued, “Hezbollah despises America, as well. The suicide truck bombings of the U.S. Embassy, killed 63. the attack on Marine barracks, which murdered 241 servicemen, in Beirut in 1983. The U.S. Embassy annex in Beirut in 1984. Hijacking TWA Flight 847 in 1985.”

“Three Hezbollah operatives—Imad Mughniyah, Hasan Izz-al-Din, and Ali Atwa—are on the FBI’s list of the twenty two Most Wanted Terrorists.”

“U.S. intelligence agencies believe Hezbollah kidnapped and tortured to death U.S. Marine Colonel William R. Higgins and Beirut CIA Station Chief William Francis Buckley. And kidnapped around thirty others, including American journalist Terry Anderson, British journalist John McCarthy.”

“Periodically,” she said, “the media recalls the Marine barrack murders. What are the long-range goals?”

“Hezbollah’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, consistently guarantees that Israel’s end is nearing. Their slogan is, ‘Death to America.’”

“Lovely,” she concluded. “What are conditions like for terrorists?”

“Terrorists don’t retire behind bars. They just work harder,” I said. “You won’t believe how: cellular phones! In eighteen months — January 2003 – June 2004 — 394 cellular phones were confiscated in their cells. Do you know how much damage you can coordinate using that type of communication with organizations outside prison?”

“What was the solution?”

“Suggested solutions included: Stricter screening of visiting attorneys and family. Using plastic instead of bars during visitation.”

”Visitation . . . ?!”

Regular visitation,” I laughed, “is like a Mideast marketplace. Wives, kids, friends.”

“Infinitely harder to detect than a cell phone is what’s called an ‘ashgar.’ That’s an extremely thin palm-sized piece of paper. On it, they write microscopically small text. They fold these into tiny packets. And will do anything to pass them between themselves in all our prisons and out to their superiors.”

Exercise yard inside an Israeli prison.

“How do terrorist inmates view themselves?”

“As keepers of the struggle. They work non-stop toward terrorist goals. Deterrence is impossible. Years ago, terrorists with long to life sentences knew they were incarcerated for the duration. That changed after the Jibril Release Deal. That deal, May 20, 1985, was three Israel Defense Force POWs returned to Israel in exchange for the release of 1,150 terrorists. An online Israel Prison Service report I read confirmed what I suspected. It reads, ‘Until the Jibril release, terrorists and murderers sentenced to life knew there was no chance of release. Now, they know it’s only a matter of time. Their freedom depends on the lists set by terror organizations in Damascus, Beirut, or other Arab capitals, or the Palestinian Authority in future prisoner exchanges. The only way to get their release is to curry favor in the eyes of their own leadership so that their name is added to the list of candidates freed in future deals. To get on the list demands they continue terroristic aspirations.”

“Do they attack guards?”

“Many. It’s ugly.”

“What are living conditions?”

“TVs in their cells,” I said. “Red Cross delivers them by truck along with sweatsuits, Ping Pong tables, exercise equipment, stuff like that.”

“They get special food arrangements to fit their dietary needs around holidays,” I said. “Certain kinds of meat that they like. The report I just mentioned concluded that because of pleasant modern living conditions and eased security for purposes of quiet, controlling these inmates is stretched beyond capabilities. Here’s the quote, ‘The fear and anxiety felt by the terrorist inmates towards their organization’s leadership exceeds the deterrent effect of the prison management or any other law. Until the end of 2001, for example, dead bodies of suspected collaborators with Israel were still being thrown out of the cells.’”

As I worked on writing this book, these conversations went on and on.

Requests from family, friends, reporters. All asking me to write about a group for which I have no empathy.


Note: A post-October 7, 2023, adjusted ending to the above chapter would read.

Hamas, humanity’s scum, don’t deserve the ink.

The author, inside an Israeli prison.

About: Fishel Jacobs is an American-Israeli rabbi, martial artist, author, and speaker.

For thirteen years, he served as a Major in the Israel Prison Service.

His memoir, Coffee Melts Bars — My Israel Prison Career is available on Amazon in print or digital format.

About the Author
Fishel Jacobs was as a major in the Israeli Prison Service and Chabad campus chaplain at Tel Aviv University. He authored numerous bestselling books on practical Talmudic law in use worldwide. And is responding rabbi for numerous websites. He speaks worldwide.
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