Michael Boyden

Israel in Trauma

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines trauma as “a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury”.

The rumination of the horrific events of October 7 and their aftermath have left our nation in a state of shock and depression. Every day the media continue to tell the story.

We view over and over again the frightening footage filmed by Hamas terrorists as they murdered 364 civilians and wounded many more at the Supernova music festival. We see them breaking into kibbutzim and taking both the living and the dead hostage.

No one can forget the horror on the face of Shiri Bibas as she hung on to her then 9-month and 4-year-old sons Kfir and Ariel as they were abducted from their home in kibbutz Nir Oz and taken to Gaza. Shiri’s parents were later found murdered.

Six months after October 7th those images are still imprinted in our collective memory. It is hardly surprising that hundreds of thousands of Israelis still gather each week in “Hostage Square” in Tel Aviv and elsewhere demanding that our government negotiate a deal for their release.

In retrospect, the return of the hostages should have taken preference over the unrealistic objective of wiping out Hamas, for we are caught in a loop and, as long as the hostages remain in Gaza, we are unable to move on.

The government wrongly believed that military pressure would force Hamas into submission. It hasn’t worked. The only alternative now is to pay an exorbitant price for their release, or let those hostages who are still alive die.

The Talmud (Baba Batra 8b) teaches us that “redeeming hostages is a great mitzvah (religious duty)”. However, elsewhere (Ketubot 52b) we are taught that “one should not redeem hostages at a price higher than their worth”.

In 2011 Netanyahu’s government released 1,027 Palestinian terror convicts in return for just one Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit. Many consider that to have been a mistake. Now we are talking about 133 hostages, some of whom are sadly no longer alive.

It is a difficult choice, but Israel, still in a state of trauma, cannot move on until this matter is resolved.

About the Author
Made aliyah from the UK in 1985, am a former president of the Israel Council of Reform Rabbis and am currently rabbi of Kehilat Yonatan in Hod Hasharon, Israel.
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