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Prisoner exchange at any price?

Home Page >  Programs >  Prisoner exchange at any price?


Israel Seminars' interactive discussion program explores a perennial problem - the highly emotive issue of prisoner exchange, examining some of the most compelling and intense moral dilemmas faced by the Jewish people, the Israeli population and its leadership.

The Israel Public Debate about Prisoner Exchange

Israel Seminars' interactive discussion program explores a perennial problem - the highly emotive issue of prisoner exchange, examining some of the most compelling and intense moral dilemmas faced by the Jewish people, the Israeli population and its leadership.

On July 9th 2015, press censorship was revoked on news that an Israeli citizen – Avera Mengistu, an Israeli Ethiopian Jew from Ashkelon, had crossed into Gaza through Zikim beach on September 7th, 2014. His whereabouts are still unclear – Hamas claim he was questioned and released, the Israeli government see Hamas as responsible for his fate.

It also surfaced that another, as yet unnamed Israeli citizen, a Bedouin from southern Israel, said to be mentally ill, has also crossed over the border into Gaza.

Hamas also claim to have the bodies of two soldiers who died in IDF's Operation Protective Edge of summer 2014 - Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul.

These events occur against the backdrop of the recent case of the released soldier hostage – Gilad Schalit. 

Gilad Schalit was captured by Hamas in an attack on a small IDF base on the Gaza border in June 2006. In October 2011, news broke of a deal to free Schalit. The Israeli cabinet had agreed to release 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in return for the captured IDF serviceman. Schalit was in captivity for 1941 days - over five years and four months. 

It was a most emotional event for the whole population of Israel – the drama of Gilad Shalit's return cannot be understated. But it was not without controversy – and the debate is as fresh as ever, especially with the current situation.

Historical exchanges have included the release of thousands of prisoners for a few Israeli soldiers or bodies of casualties.

In Israel Seminars' discussion program, we consider the points raised in the public debate and the compelling human dilemmas faced by the decision-makers in the past, and almost inevitably in the future.

Why did it take so long to bring Schalit back?

Why is Israel willing to release so many terrorists for one soldier?

Surely Israel is responsible for all soldiers drafted into military service? What is the responsibility for citizens? Or for a tourist?

The terrorists released in the deal had killed 560 Israelis. 60% of terrorists released in previous prisoner exchanges have returned to terror. How many more lives will be at risk as they are set free?

But if Israel doesn't free a captured soldier, how does that affect IDF morale?

What do Israelis think about this issue?

What points are considered in the public debate?

How can classical Jewish sources help us decide?

What will be different the next time…?

Participants' comments about the program "Gilad Schalit - at any price?":

“Excellent pedagogy. Thought provoking combination of spectrum & stories was very poignant. Happy to discuss how to get more students to your programs”
Participant, Princeton University, NJ

“I was interested in learning more about the reality of the debate in Israel surrounding Gilad Schalit. I felt this discussion illuminated many of the real debates & how personal opinions very vs. national policy. I also appreciated the question - discussion format and really asking the difficult questions & learning what the challenges are to Gilad’s release.”
Participant, Princeton University, NJ

“Very well done.”
Yael Aronoff, MSU Assistant Professor International Relations and Serling Chair of Israel Studies, Mason, MI

“I found this seminar very interesting in all perspectives. The moral dilemmas are hard to navigate and the presenter addressed all very well.”
Participant, East Lansing, MI

“I was very impressed by the presentation and I appreciated the interactive format. There are so many challenging moral dilemmas and the format did a good job bringing many up.”
Brian P., Portland, MI

“This was well presented, showed the conflicting arguments and presented the moral dilemma facing Israel. It was also good because it elicited the participation of the group.”
Judith W., Montclair, NJ

This program is suitable for:
Synagogue and community-wide audiences, JCC’s, JCRC’s, Israel action committees, Hillel and college student groups, 11-12th grade students at high schools or supplementary schools (religious schools etc.). Professional development sessions for lay leadership, Federation staff, teachers, educators & clergy. Men's clubs, Sisterhood and Hadassah groups, golden ager groups. No prior knowledge required.

Duration: 60 - 90 minutes

Program fees:
North America: $900 for single program or $1500 per day of programming (according to your schedule, this could be three, four or more engagements in one locality) plus local transportation and accommodation where applicable.
The presentation is also available as part of a Scholar-in-Residence Shabbat ($2000). Contact us for itinerary suggestions.
UK: £450 for single program, £750 for a full day of activities, £950 for Scholar-in-residence Shabbat plus local transport and accommodation where applicable.

Contact us now to book:
Using the contact form or email us at
Ensure the best dates for your group!

Photograph: IDF spokesman