Letter to a Soldier

Dear Gilad:

Together with millions of others, I rejoice at your safe return to the free world.

A trade of 1,027 men for one man is a significant and inspiring event. It is significant because it has occurred in an ambiance of bitter conflict. It is inspiring because it exemplifies the fundamental distinction between totalitarian and democratic states: the value of an individual in a sea of others.

Over a period of five years, you were at the center of the perennial dichotomy of collective vs. individual rights. That dichotomy was exacerbated by the intense life-and-death urgency created by your perilous captivity. Inevitably, the issue of your ransom was elevated from a matter of policy to that of conscience.

Understandably, there were those who argued that acceptance of the terms would encourage Israel’s enemies to create other instances through which they might extort imbalances in prisoner exchanges. Others, took exception to implacable policy and were guided by their consciences.

They were right. You see, Gilad, warfare intensifies the moral fiber of a culture. Its individuals react to war in different ways. Some become more antagonistic to their country, others more patriotic. In my country, the former have gone so far as to carry placards that proclaim, “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.” The latter are as bonded to our soldiers as firmly as Israeli’s are to theirs. Most Americans and Israelis, whatever political parties they favor, share the hallmark of our two nations: the worth of an individual. Your experience is a symbol for the essence of democracy.

I hope you will live long enough to enjoy peace in your country. On a personal basis, you certainly have earned it.

Your American friend,


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