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Psak 5767 Tishrei 12

Informal translation from Hebrew of the 12 Tishrei, 5767 (4 October, 2006) statement:

Special Court for Matters Concerning the Nation and the State
Tel: 02-5661962, cell 050-6733831, fax: 057-7976007
Email: 47 Rachel Imeinu St. Jerusalem 93228

The Sanhedrin's Political Commission Concerning Redeeming Captives

A. Every Jewish heart joins in the pain of the captives and their families. Every individual and even the state and the authorities are required to act with mercy to the captives and the families; it is incumbent upon us to do everything in our ability for the redemption of the captives, and that is because “all of Israel are responsible for one another”[1], and thus Israel took an oath at Sinai.[2]
B. Over the years, the Israeli governments have developed negative behavioral patterns in all involved in prisoner exchanges[3]. First and foremost, this is because they violated the principle of mutual responsibility (the solidarity principle), and thus the deterrence power of our nation and the State of Israel has been diminished. This process intensified more forcefully since the opening of the “Peace Process”. The result is that the State of Israel has removed its divine image from itself, its enemy doesn’t fear it[4], and its friends fear its betrayal. Therefore, the State has been forced to a situation as if it were going out of business and must sell its assets at any price.
C. A sovereign state whose soldiers or citizens were captured in hostile acts cannot treat the enemies demands convicted terrorists for captives as any other ordinary deal. If it does, it dismantles the judicial system and justice, and preemptively destroys the chance for victory over the enemy. The enemy’s demand to return terrorists, prisoners, terrorists who committed heinous crimes, in return for freeing captive Israelis, is submission to bribery and will encourage the enemy to attempt to achieve all its goals by way of further kidnapping.
D. Redeeming captives has turned in to a campaign of abuse and humiliation for the state and the Jewish Nation.
E. The halachic ruling of “one does not redeem a captive for more than their worth”[5] is well known. But their value, the value of the captives, is not simply financial but rather is an existential value which can undermine the remaining camp – all of the Nation of Israel.[6]
F. In any exchange which would be executed today, there would be multiple hundred prisoners for one soldier, and not something reasonable, like up to seven to one. This would cause great damage, encouraging further kidnappings, and will cause the release of terrorists who would return to their ways – killing Jews, G-d forbid[7]. It is obligatory to change the behavioral patterns and the judicial guidelines in order to return the deterrence force.
G. There should be no further work regarding redeeming captives until there is a mandatory death sentence penalty for terrorists, since these prisoners are not protected from this by international conventions. The demand for terrorists with blood on their hands as a condition for freeing captives needs to serve as a clear sign for the need to enact the death penalty.
H. Harming a captive will cause the executive of many additional hostages, among the most senior ones in our hold, or that will be captured for this purpose, including ministers, prime ministers, and anyone else identified as an enemy leader.
I. Due to mercy on the merciless[8] in which the State of Israel has excelled, it is required to go to war and to show mercilessness to the enemy, as per the advice of the Rambam in the Eight Chapters[9]. If it will not do this, it is nothing more than an additional failure on the way to the eternal abyss.
J. The leadership of the state is required to repent and to develop an approach to war and security fitting for justice and the goals of our nation, stemming from its uniqueness and the special status of the Nation of Israel. To this end, the state must take council with the sages of Israel so that they would instruct it the way to repentance, some of which is written in this document, and some of it in other documents written by the Sanhedrin’s representatives regarding the government’s obligations during wartime.

Commission Members:
Engineer Moshe Lebel – Commission Head
Professor Hillel Weiss – Speak of the Sanhedrin 0545343545
Rabbi Meir Chai Chakak, Kehilat Yaakov
Rabbi Dr. Ezra Teffer, Jerusalem
Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Shatz, Hashmonaim
Rabbi Yoel Schwartz, Jerusalem – Head of the Sanhedrin
Rabbi Dov Stein, Jerusalem – Secretary of the Sanhedrin

Click here to see the Hebrew version


  1. Woe unto us that the verse from Torah has been fulfilled “and a driven leaf shall pursue them, and they will flee as one flees from a sword” due to fear, “and they will fall and there is none that pursues them” for lack of strength, “and they will stumble one on another”, this doesn’t mean one on another but rather one on another’s sin, teaching that all of Israel are responsible one for another, “and you will not have no power before your enemies”, this is the time that Jerusalem was captured, Yalkut Shimoni, Parshat Bechukotai, Remez 675.
  2. See Rabbi Shlomo Goren, “All of Israel is responsible for one another”, Torat Moadim, 5724, pages 54-70. In particular it is written there “It is the responsibility of the Sanhedrin to sustain (mutual) responsibility”.
  3. The state abandoned captives via ignorance in the “Bad Deal” affair of 5714 (1954), when it didn’t redeem the captives of the underground, which operated in the states name in Egypt in the 1950’s, and did not act to exchange them in the exchange of prisoners after the Sinai Campaign of 5717 (1956). It did this only after heavy pressure after the victory of the Six Day War of 5727 (1967). The state purposefully acted in an unusual way when it turned over Pollard, and assisted in his extremely harsh conviction. It agreed to the exchange of captives for prisoners in the past without demanding the body of Eli Cohen, without giving a clear answer on the fate of the soldiers missing from Sultan Yaakov, without giving clear testimony as to the fate of Ron Arad. It abandoned the Southern Lebanon Army and the Arab collaborators to their death or joining Hizbollah. It has exchanged more than a thousand terrorists, like in the Jibril Deal of 5745 (1985), in exchange for a few Jews, an affair which according to all opinions instigated the first Intifada, and destroyed the norms of fighting terror.
  4. “And all the nations of the world will see that the name of G-d is called upon you, and they will fear you” Deuteronomy 28:10
  5. Mishnah Gittin 4:6
  6. In the Shulchan Aruch, it has been ruled (Yoreh Deah 252:1-3) that the redemption of captives comes before any other charity, and we are required to redeem them as quickly as possible. But our sages have decreed (Gittin 45a) that one should not redeem captives for more than their worth, that is to say one is not to pay a huge amount to redeem individuals taken captive. The accepted reasoning for this decree is (Yoreh Deah 252:4) that the enemies should not be going out of their way to take specifically Jewish captives because of the high ransom they receive for them.
  7. Meir Indor, CEO of Almagor, the union of terror victims, in its announcement from September 26, 2006, states that a number of terrorists “without blood on their hands” who were released in prior deals and were actively involved in bloody attacks after their release.
  8. Shu"t Meshaneh Halachot 13:151: "The mercy of evil person is cruel." (Proverbs 12:10) When he has mercy on an individual, he is cruel to the public and to all Israel (G-d forbid). And in the Torah is stated "you shall destroy the evil from amongst yourself so that they will hear and fear" and the lowly will make a hole in the mountain, especially when it makes damage to the masses.
  9. Rambam, Eight Chapters, chapter 2, halacha 2: “If he was far off to one extreme, he should make himself go off to the opposite extreme, and act according to that for a long time, until he is able to return to the good path, which is the middle trait in every idea.”

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