The Lord Does Not Despise His Captive People

The Fellowship  |  August 26, 2020

Gilad Shalit salutes PM Netanyahu upon his return from captivity, October 18, 2011
Gilad Shalit salutes PM Netanyahu upon his return from captivity, October 18, 2011

Like most Israelis, Gilad Shalit served his country in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). But unlike most, Shalit lived a large portion of his life as the prisoner of Israel’s terrorist enemies. In Psalm 69, King David assures us that “The LORD hears the needy and does not despise his captive people” (v. 33). God surely heard the pleas of this Israeli You Should Know during his captivity.

Growing Up in Galilee

Born August 28, 1986, Gilad grew up in the Western Galilee. After graduating with honors from high school, he prepared for his compulsory service in the IDF. Despite medical concerns that might have allowed him a safer role, Gilad chose to serve in a combat unit.

Held by Hamas

In the summer of 2006, tensions between Israel and Hamas reached a fever pitch. Early on the morning of June 25, Palestinian terrorists snuck into Israel via terror tunnels along the border. Besides Gilad Shalit, two Israeli soldiers died during the attack and two more suffered injuries.

Wounded in the hand and shoulder, Gilad found himself nabbed by the terrorists, who dragged their captive back through the tunnel. No Israeli soldier had been captured in more than a decade.

Operation Summer Rains

Israel acted quickly, carrying out Operation Summer Rains. This IDF mission into Gaza intended to free Shalit. Israel said: “Israel did everything it could in exhausting all diplomatic options and gave Mahmoud Abbas the opportunity to return the abducted Israeli… This operation can be terminated immediately, conditioned on the release of Gilad Shalit.” Sadly, the operation proved unsuccessful.

Israel also attempted to save Shalit through diplomatic means, which also failed. Hamas replied: “We have managed to keep the soldier in captivity for six months and we have no problem keeping him for years.”

Israel Has Chosen Life

And keep him for years, the terrorists did. At last, more than five years after his capture, Hamas released Gilad Shalit – malnourished but alive – after Israel made a prisoner swap deal. In the photo above, this servant of Israel salutes her leader (then, as he is now), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Before he passed away, Rabbi Eckstein recalled the choice Israel made to save the life of Gilad Shalit, and the choices she makes every day. The choice of life.

“…the Bible lays out for us a blueprint for a different way of living, a blueprint for all of us to follow: “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

This is the choice Israel has made. She has created a system of government that works to secure democracy and liberty for all. She has embraced creativity and innovation. She respects the humanity of her enemies, even in times of war. Israeli society is imperfect, as all societies are. But it is built on a foundation that reflects a fundamental belief in the sanctity of life, rather than the glorification of death.

Dear friends, even as our enemies choose death, let us choose life…

Let us rejoice that Gilad Shalit once again lives and thrives in his biblical homeland, Israel. And let us rejoice that the Jewish state continues to choose life in a region and world that too often choose otherwise.

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