Gilad and Marla
The Lord giveth. The Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. – Job 1:21
Five years ago, on June 25, 2006, Gilad Shalit was abducted by Hamas terrorists near the Gaza border.
Four years earlier, on July 31, 2002, my friend Marla Bennett – along with eight others – was murdered in the bombing at Hebrew University.
The two incidents were never really connected in my mind – until now.
This morning, seeing the images of Shalit coming home, hugging his parents, I feel elated. We have spent years hoping and praying and working for this day. And for so many who feared that he would become another Ron Arad, another Israeli who was never heard from again, or another Goldwasser and Regev, returned in a body bag, it is a day of great joy and relief.
But at the same time, I can’t help but think about Marla.
I got to know Marla when we were students at Hebrew University, and at camp. She was a smart, funny, witty, caring soul with a smile that could light up a room. She was an extraordinary educator who cared deeply about Israel, about teaching, about the Jewish future. She was cut off far before her time. A shining star was ripped out of this world.
And it turns out that among the terrorists being released in return for Shalit’s return are at least two who were involved in the Hebrew University bombing, including the maker of the bombs and the one who placed them inside the Frank Sinatra Cafe.
There has been much chatter online and in the newspapers about the high price that Israel has had to pay for Gilad Shalit’s release. I have little to add to that debate. Is the life of one Israeli soldier worth the release of hundreds of terrorists with the blood of thousands on their hands? Most Israelis say yes, and I agree. But I am still angry that the men who murdered my friend will walk free and be welcomed as heroes. All we can do is hope and pray that some good will come of this, and rejoice through tears that one of Israel’s children has come home.
At age 24, Marla was torn from this world. At 25, Gilad reenters it. Marla never had the opportunity to live life – to raise a family, to have a career, to make her mark on the world. Those are opportunities that Gilad will now have, and for that we are all thankful. I know that this doesn’t bring back my friend, but at least we know that one life – which is worth an entire world – has been saved.
Welcome home, Gilad Shalit. We’ve all been praying for you, and we’re glad to see you again.