October 24, 2011

From Joseph, to Jonathan, to Gilad

It's been pointed out that the patriarchal Joseph was released from captivity in Egypt, and that the Hebrew Bible (Torah) refers to him as ruler ("shalit") over that land, and that Gilad Shalit was released on the very day that Jews traditionally welcome the spirit of Joseph into our succahs around the world.

There are other, more immediate historical tie-ins. Watching Prime Minister Netanyahu greet Gilad Shalit as he stepped off the rear ramp of a military helicopter was a striking throwback to the July 4, 1976, Israeli raid on Entebbe, Uganda, after which the rescued Air France hostages stepped off the rear ramp of their Hercules C-130 aircraft, greeted by then-Prime Minister Rabin and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, among others. Netanyahu's legendary brother Yoni (Jonathan), who had commanded that operation, was the only Israeli soldier to not make it back alive.

Thirty-five years later, Benjamin Netanyahu repeated the gesture of an Israeli leader welcoming the freed hostage. Had his older brother made it off that first ramp in 1976, he might well have been the one standing as Prime Minister to receive Gilad Shalit.

For all the ins and outs, ups and downs, tough calls and political calculations, that moment last week was the most evocative for me.

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