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Abraham brought back the captives; This week's Torah portion offers hope about hostages held by Hamas

People light candles at the "Hostages Square", outside the Art Museum of Tel Aviv, October 27, 2023. (Photo: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

In the hostage drama 47 years ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's brother, Yonatan (Yoni) Netanyahu, led the elite Israeli commando unit that freed the Israelis who had been kidnapped by Palestinian hostage-takers.

During the 90-minute rescue operation, three hostages lost their lives in the fighting, but the remaining 102 hostages were successfully rescued. One soldier from the approximately 100-strong rescue team also lost his life: Yonatan Netanyahu, the commanding officer of Sayeret Matkal's 29-person assault unit.

Benjamin Netanyahu, who also served in the Sayeret Matkal, with deployments that are still classified today, now has to deal with a crisis even more serious than during the Entebbe raid in 1976.

At that time, the hostages were held together in one location. Being thousands of kilometers away from Israel, they were not greatly concerned about the possibility of an Israeli hostage rescue operation.

However, being aware of the past, today it is more challenging to successfully execute a surprise rescue mission. The hostages are obviously not being held in one location, nor reportedly even by one group, and the Hamas terror organization is prepared and waiting for the Israeli attack.

Various domestic and foreign intelligence services are undoubtedly working tirelessly to locate the hostages. Considering the significant American military presence and the substantial number of American hostages, it's reasonable to assume that U.S. commando units are on standby for a potential rescue operation, exploring all available options. However, the prevailing consensus suggests that, given the current situation, even if the hostages' location were to be identified, the prospects of a successful military rescue operation appear rather slim.

The question was and still is whether the abductees could be brought back through a prisoner exchange. Israel had reportedly shown a willingness to negotiate such an exchange through Qatar, but specific conditions and details had not been made public. Based on their statements, Hamas sought the release of all Palestinians imprisoned in exchange for the hostages.

A little over 47 years ago, a similar demand was made. Back then, Israel refused to negotiate with the terrorists. Up to now, negotiations were conducted through a mediator and, although it was not likely that Israel would agree to meet all of Hamas' demands, the ongoing discussions and negotiations have, until now, prevented Israeli military troops from launching a ground invasion.

Some in Israel have proposed releasing all prisoners, arguing that, due to the lack of a death penalty in Israel, they could be eliminated alongside other Hamas members after the prisoner exchange. On the other hand, aside from the unclear feasibility of this idea, such an exchange would have signal weakness to the enemies, a scenario that Israel would unlikely accept.

Hostages with American or other foreign citizenships, in addition to their Israeli citizenship, may have a higher chance of being released during hostage negotiations. This might also apply to children, the elderly, and those who are more seriously wounded. The world has witnessed the demonic cruelty of the terrorists, and Hamas might want to improve its reputation.

Israel, of course, demands the release of all hostages, but for the safe return of each one of them, a miracle would be required.

And miracles do happen, as reflected in the saying attributed to David Ben Gurion, the state founding prime minister of Israel, who was not particularly known for his religious beliefs: "In Israel, anyone who doesn't believe in miracles is not a realist."

Ben Gurion knew precisely that good intentions, talent, knowledge, determination, financial resources, and weapons, while necessary prerequisites for achieving a goal, are not necessarily sufficient. It demands a favorable combination of numerous factors that cannot be foreseen and are beyond our control. The Israeli leaders who led the victory in the Six-Day War in 1967 were also aware of the need for divine assistance to achieve their miraculous triumph. 

Similarly, 47 years ago, based on preliminary investigations, the chances of success in the daring hostage rescue operation were minimal. Due to the lack of some necessary information, they had no choice but to place their trust in a miracle and seek the help of the God of Israel.

Now, it seems that the waiting time is over; the government and the military leaders have apparently made their primary strategic decisions. While praying for victory and the safety of our soldiers, innocent civilians, and the hostages, may God strengthen our faith and give us comfort that we all are in His hands.

The correlation between current events and a specific theme found in this week's Torah portion It may give rise to further hope.

The weekly Torah portions are read every week in Jewish synagogues worldwide, covering the entire Pentateuch annually. This tradition dates back to the Second Temple period, having endured through the time of Jesus, and remains central in Jewish communities to this day.

In the biblical text to be read on this Sabbath, when Abram/Abraham learned that his relative had been taken captive, he armed his 318 trained servants, organized them into groups, and launched a nighttime attack on the enemy. As a result, he successfully rescued Lot and the other captives, both men and women.

Each Sabbath, the weekly Torah portion is accompanied by a related prophetic section, known as Haftarah. The Haftarah this week is selected from chapters 40-41 of the Book of Isaiah, offering the following encouraging verses:

Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God?

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish.

Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, even them that contended with thee: they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought.

For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.

Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.

Yehuda is a former mathematics and science teacher in Israel's first accredited Messianic school, based in Jerusalem, holding academic degrees in mathematics, physics, and philosophy. He joined the ALL ISRAEL NEWS staff in August 2023.

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