"The mitzvah of redeeming prisoners does not apply to captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit because he does not keep the mitzvoth and observe the Torah," claimed members of the extremist haredi group Neturei Karta in Israel. According to them, this is "a simple halachic truth" that the central stream of haredi Judaism is trying to hide, but that "this is the Torah and it will not be changed."
A letter titled "The truth must be told" sent to the community's mailing list by one of its most prominent activists claimed: "Gilad Shalit, who does not observe the Torah and the commandments – and the recent video informed us where he eats (at restaurants in the Galilee under Druze sector Badatz kosher certification), and that he even publicly violates the Sabbath and does not lay phylacteries, is not at all 'your brother.' There is no obligation to redeem him or to rescue him according to Jewish law. Shabbat must not be violated in the case of saving his life.
"Unfortunately, around the national calf called Gilad Shalit, everyone blindly dances. It does not occur to them that, with all the pain and sorrow and 'the baby taken prisoner', there is halacha (Jewish law) first and foremost," wrote the author.
"Until this day, we have yet to hear this simple halchic truth from any 'haredi speaker' on duty, but this is the simple truth, and the truth, as you know, cannot be changed."
The Neturei Karta letter explained that this does not mean that Shalit should not be rescued at all because there is a chance that he will become religious. However, "if Gilad is released in order to continue violating the Sabbath, eating in Druze restaurants, and not laying tefillin, etc., then there is no mitzvah here, and certainly not the mitzvah of redeeming prisoners," claimed the letter.
'Returning Gilad one of most important mitzvahs'
Association of Friends of the Sons of Torah for Gilad Shalit said in response that this generation's decisor (posek hador) Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliashiv ruled unequivocally that the mitzvah – one of the most important in the Torah – applies to Gilad Shalit in Gaza.
"It was so clear to him, as it was to other rabbis from all the denominations that we contacted, that he didn't even get into a halachic deliberation on the issue. A Jewish soldier who has dedicated his life for the entire nation of Israel is observing one of the biggest mitzvoth. It is outrageous ingratitude to claim that there is no obligation to redeem him."
The members mentioned that "Rabbi Eliashiv, who is the unchallenged leader of the haredi public, is unbiased to any side," and implied that Neturei Karta is afflicted by foreign considerations.
The haredi association of Shalit affairs published announcements in haredi newspapers before the holidays calling upon the haredi population to increase Torah study, acts of loving kindness, prayers, and supplications for Gilad Shalit "until our outcries reach He who resides in the heights and will take him out of captivity to freedom, from darkness to light."
"This generation's great and enlightened have already pronounced the magnitude of the obligation on each and every person to pray for him, because it is an issue of saving life and redeeming captives."