‘An incomplete joy’
Community marks release of Israeli Gilad Shalit after five years of captivity
By Joel Goldenberg
A community event was held last week at Côte St. Luc’s Beth Israel Beth Aaron Synagogue, to mark the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit by the terrorist group Hamas after more than five years of captivity and the support of Shalit by the Montreal community.
But speakers all acknowledged the heavy price Israel paid, the release of 1,027 Palestinians from Israeli prisons, many of them responsible for terrorist attacks and mass murders. The event was organized under the auspices of the Consulate General of Israel and organized by Federation CJA, the Canadian Zionist Federation, the Communauté Sépharade Unifié du Québec and Kollel Torah Mitzion.
Alon Melchior, the Israeli consul, said Shalit’s and the Israeli people’s prayers of five and a half years were finally answered.
“We see Hamas celebrating too, and the difference is they are celebrating the release of murderers, messengers of death,” Melchior said. “We are celebrating life.”
Rabbi Reuben Poupko, spiritual leader of Beth Israel Beth Aaron Synagogue, said Israel “made terrible sacrifices to bring Gilad Shalit home, terrible, brutal people were released.
“You saw the celebrations of mass murderers being treated as heroes,” he added. “But what trumps all of that is the message the State of Israel has sent to each and every one of its soldiers, to every family in Israel, that God forbid, if a soldier is ever taken again... Israel will do everything possible to bring its boys home.”
D’Arcy McGee MNA Lawrence Bergman also spoke of Israel’s sacrifice, saying the price was “painfully high.
“The Palestinian Muslim cleric was absolutely correct when he said ‘you Jews love life, while we love death,’” he said. “We Jews love life, we love the young men and women who bear arms in defence of our homeland. We love our children and our grandchildren because we know they are the promise of one generation to the next, without which life has no meaning.
“No country should have to go through the ordeal Israel has been through.”
Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz, of Côte St. Luc’s Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem Synagogue, said the sentiment of the evening was “incomplete joy.
“Many people perhaps feel this deal was a mistake,” Rabbi Steinmetz said. “I don’t come to contradict that. I usually say that if you think this deal was a mistake, you have to judge a country and a people by the mistakes that it makes. If this is a mistake, it’s a mistake I can be proud of, because the mistake we’re making is that we love too much. And if I have to have a choice between the mistake of loving too much or too little, I certainly will take the choice of loving too much.”
Mount Royal MP Irwin Cotler, who could not be on hand, sent a message that was read by Rabbi Poupko.
“We understand the very deep and real concern the agreement [to exchange prisoners] entails, including the unspeakable pain of families who lost loved ones at the hands of the authors of these unspeakable terrorist acts now set free and celebrated by Palestinian society,” Cotler’s message also said. “Of this pain I can speak personally, [among those set free] were the murderers of my niece.”
Rabbi Poupko, in a voice choked with emotion, pointed out that the murderers of former West island resident Yehoshua Friedberg were also set free.