Noam Shalit, father of Gilad, the abducted Israeli soldier has urged Israel to hand over 130 Arabs convicted of first degree murder, in exchange for the freedom of his son.
This is certainly not the time to judge Noam Shalit. The mishna itself implores us not to judge a man until we walk in his shoes, and not to judge a man at the time of his sorrow (Tractate Avot).
Yet along with our genuine empathy for what the Shalits must be going through, a painful truth must also be spoken: Freeing his son is not worth the price.
I write that difficult sentence as a journalist who has had the opportunity to view uncut interviews with tens of these unrepentant killers. When asked what they would do when and if they were released, all said that they would kill again.
To observe the matter-of-factness with which these killers describe their heinous acts, you learn one thing: If any of these killers are released, they will murder again.
Indeed, according to Zev Dasberg, an attorney by profession and the head of the Israel Institute for the Research on Terror Victims, more than fifty people have been murdered in cold blood by killers who were freed by Israel in previous "gestures" when convicted killers were freed over the past five years.
I also write as a father who currently has a son serving in an IDF army combat unit not far from Gaza. My son, Elchanon, made just one request before he was drafted: Please do not trade any murderers in exchange for me, in case I am captured. As much as it would pain me to do so, I would honor my son's request.
War: Cruel reality
At the same time, we must all remember the cruel realities of war: In a war, soldiers are killed, wounded and captured. That is what war is all about. Captured soldiers are exchanged at the end of a conflict, or during a lull in fighting. That is not the situation today.
It is one thing to redeem a captive, as we are commanded to do by Jewish Law. It is quite another thing to free a soldier and know that his freedom will result in the murder of many more people. That is not a cycle of violence. That is a cycle of murder.
David Bedein is the Bureau Chief of the Israel Resource News Agency