The announced prisoner swap between Israel and Hamas appears to have broken a 5 year stalemate in negotiations. The Jerusalem Post confirms that Israel and Hamas have agreed to exchange 25 year old Jewish soldier Gilad Schalit for 1027 “security” prisoners.
Have been thinking about the guarded sense of deep emotion that families on both sides must be feeling today… and the additional emotions of others who fear that such a release will result in more violence than peace.
On a visit to Palestinian Ramallah a few years ago, I remember seeing posters around the city honoring Marwan Barghouti, a popular Palestinian Fatah leader who was jailed in 2002. Yesterday it was announced that he would be among those released. But Israeli authorities have since denied the report.
Last year, while doing work for Bible Lands programs for Day of Discovery, I visited the vigil that Noam and Aviva Schalit had been keeping for their son outside the President’s residence in Jerusalem.
So now that an exchange agreement has been reached, how are we to interpret the thought of 1 Israeli being exchanged for 1000 Palestinians?
And why mention it here?
One reason is that the story reflects the value of human life, and the longings of those who have been separated from a son, daughter or any loved one.
I’m inspired by the love of the parents who vowed not to go home without their son. Yet at the same time, I’m bothered by the fact that I am able to easily identify with the Israeli parents without having the same exposure to the thousands of Palestinian parents and friends who, for the same passing hours and years, have been grieving separation from their own loved ones.
I’m troubled by the fact that, depending on our nationalistic, political, or theological point of view, we find it easier to identify with the humanity of prisoners, families, and friends on one side of the conflict rather than the other.
I’m most troubled by the thought that the Bible is so often used to honor one side while dehumanizing and demonizing the other.
If we were living before the death of Israel’s long awaited Son and Messiah, speaking with contempt about one side or another would reflect the natural, nationalistic animosities that divided Israel from other nations.
But ever since the life, death, and resurrection of the Savior of the world, any story that alludes to one life given in exchange for others gives us reason to think twice about expressing contempt for any people group or person for whom Christ died (John 11:49-50).
Caiaphas, as the high priest of Israel in the days of Jesus, thought it politically expedient that one person should be sacrificed for the life of a nation. But, when he said that, he had no clue that the person he was talking about was about to show by his own death, the value that God puts on the life of everyone (John 11:51-53); (Romans 5:18-19); (Rev 5:9); (Rom 11:32-36); (John 3:16) .
Another thought that I keep coming back to with stories like this is that whenever something true (or even shrewd) is said (i.e. when Caiaphas made his comment about it being politically expedient for one to die for the nation), there is always a bigger and better story running in the background…