This is the question that has been asked since the Gilad Shalit exchange deal was announced almost a week ago. In order to bring Gilad home, Israel had to agree to the release of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners, many of whom have quite a bit of blood on their hands , and who have been sentenced to a numer of consecutive life sentences (see detailed information here )
In many ways, this is a terrible deal, one that makes one heart and mind shudder. In order to bring Gilad home, we have to agree to let murderers go free - killers who planned and undertook cold blooded murder of innocent people, while eating at a restaurant or celebrating the Pesach seder. In many ways, one can't help but wonder if such an action on the government's part is one that we can live with. In many ways, one can't help but wonder how many of these murderers will go back to a life of killing, or help train others to kill. In many ways, it seems like a very big mistake.
But then we remember Gilad, the 19 year old that we, Israel, drafted to compulsory army service, and who was defending us on the border when we was captured. Then we remember that Gilad could be my son, or yours, or yours, and that it was only the Shalits' awful luck that made it their son, and not mine, or yours, or yours. Then we remember that Gilad is still alive, and that we have the chance here to get him out of captivity, so that he can rejoin his family, and rejoin life. We remember that he was sent to do our - Israeli - bidding (though I don't agree with so much of this bidding...) and that if we conscripted him, and sent him to the front line, we have to bring him back. We remember that he could just as easily been my son, or yours, or yours.
Gilad is alive, and it took 5 years and 4 months to arrive at the formula for bringing him back, as hard and awful and terrible that solution is. We cannot leave him in Gaza in captivity, for if we do, we are most likely signing his death warrant. We cannot do this to one of our sons.
How much is a person worth? This seems like an impossible question to answer, but it really is easy.
A person is worth everything.
If this was the lesson that we Israelis were teaching our children (and if this was the lesson that the Hamas was also teaching their children), we could sleep much better at night, knowing that the chances of there being another Gilad Shalit were very very slim. If we taught our children in Israel, in the West Bank, in Gaza, everywhere, to cherish life and liberty, cherish rights, cherish equality, cherish the diversity that the world has to offer, cherish freedom, then our reality would be full of the most amazing creations, and much more joy.
A person is worth everything, and that is why we must make sure that the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal is carried out, without any hitches. Gilad must come home. One thousand and twenty-seven Palestinian prisoners need to be released.
We cannot know now if, in the end, this deal will ultimately lead to more injury and deaths of innocent people. This is the chance we take. However, if we use this prison exchange agreement to continue our dialogue with our neighbors - even those in the Hamas - and if we commit to valuing life and freedom, we will be leaving much less to chance and death. In doing so, we will strengthen the odds that there will be much less blood on hands, as we wash away the violence with kindness, respect, and dignity.