Biblical Hostage Negotiations

December 5, 2023, Israel

Update, May 2, 2024. 

Israel has withdrawn most of its forces from the Gaza strip. The governments' promise to the people that "this time it will be different, this time the military will be allowed to destroy the enemy", is proving hollow. Again, negotiations are taking place. Now the Evil Terrorists, Hamas, have increased their demands. 

Wait! Is this a type? Are those who are being destroyed, driven out of the tunnels, being bombed and destroyed by our air force, being demolished by our military, they have Increased their demands?!? Is the one being defeated, smashed to smithereens, the one to increase their demands? Is that how war works? Did Japan and Germany increase their demands as the Allies, led by the USA, were destroying the very fabric of their societies? Did the Allies permit "humanitarian aid" to the enemy? (which of course includes ammunition and resupplies for the fighters). 

And yet, whereas for the first hostages the "Price" was the release of three terrorists, mostly women and "children" i.e. fighters aged 17, and with the condition that none had "blood on their hands" i.e. they tried to kill Jews but failed. Now the terms have changed. Those generous terms from our defeated enemy have changed. Now it is 20 terrorists for each hostage, and 40 terrorists for each hostage who was in the Israel Defense Forces. That is a huge increase in price, plus, the list which they submit includes murderers, those with plenty of blood on their hands. 

And the Israeli government is actually negotiating. This is called snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, just as we did in all the previous wars. We were on the road to Cairo and Damascus but were ordered to stop. We could have destroyed the Egyptian Third Army, but not allowed. 

and I wonder what we have gained for the terrible price we have paid. 

Our country is being boycotted by most of the world, at this moment almost no foreign airlines are flying to Israel. Tourism is dead, business is dead. Prices and taxes are going up.

Is this what victory looks like?

These days in Israel we are dealing with a very difficult situation. Hundreds of helpless innocent civilians were taken hostage after witnessing their loved ones being brutally murdered. In many cases wives witnessed the murder of the husbands, children witnessed the murder of the parents and then they were violently taken hostage. Thus, the trauma is greatly increased. Many are injured, many are elderly who need their daily medications, one was a cancer patient who needed her chemotherapy. Many of the women were raped and witnessed their friends being raped and then murdered. Therefore, this is more than just a hostage situation.

Those who have been released told of horrific conditions. Many are still afraid to speak as they have warned by the enemy, "We know where you live, if you speak about what you went through, we will send men to get you and your family, we will brutally murder all of you. Tell the authorities that you were treated well."

But the medical teams have been able to see that many lost a great deal of weight, and many have been beaten. Only a few details have emerged but those are enough for us to understand how terrible it must have been. The news reports hint of much more but they have decided to spare our sensitive ears the details of the atrocities. Only a fraction of the gruesome details has been revealed so far. American sources report that our enemy refuses to release any more female hostages as they are afraid of what they will reveal to the world. The enemy is being exposed not as freedom fighters but rather as brutal sadists and rapists. 

The families of the hostages are waging a great campaign trying to pressure our government to make greater concessions in order to release the remaining hostages. However, many of us are opposed to this. The families hold signs saying, "Bring them home AT ANY PRICE", but we have learned that sometimes the price is too high. The current "price" we have been paying is 3 convicted murderous terrorists for each innocent Israeli, plus a day of "respite" read: a day for the terrorist to rearm and regroup. Each day works to the out disadvantage and puts our soldiers at great risk. Each terrorist released places our civilian population at greater harm. Essentially, we are exchanging blood for blood, i.e. the price for a released hostage is the blood of future victims, as there surely will be. In addition, agreeing to these horrendous terms encourages our enemies as they rightly see this a sign of victory. I.e. they have succeeded! By attacking Israel on October 7, 2023, and taking hostages they have succeeded in releasing their fellow terrorists from Israeli prisons. This encourages local terrorists and empowers them. As a result we have seen increased terrorism in Jerusalem, shootings in broad daylight at major intersections. In a couple of days I must drive to the airport, I am trying to find a time of day when terrorist shootings are less common, i.e. less traffic. Can you imagine living like this?

I am opposed to the hostage deals, as much as we feel the pain of all those in captivity, we must not make a bad deal as this will only lead to more deaths. I recall the words of my teacher Itay Gil, in reference to airline hostage situations, "Don't make a bad deal", i.e. a flight attendant is taken hostage, she is being held on the plane with a knife to her throat. The terrorists demand that we open the cockpit, i.e. take over the plane and take it to Beirut or wherever. He said, "No, don't make a bad deal, don't make a bad trade. Yes, in war people die, that is life, but we can't put more people in danger." 

Now I am sure if the family of that flight attendant were there, they would cry out as loud as they can - Release her AT ANY PRICE. But if that price is the lives of the hundreds of other passengers, than no, very sadly no, it cannot be done. This is the tragic nature of war. We are forced to make difficult decisions.

In the year 1286 the Jews of Germany were suffering terribly. Heavy taxation made life impossible. Many Jews tried to escape but a Jew who converted to Christianity (to better his lot in life and avoid the persecution) noticed the great Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg, known as the Maharam, and turned him over to the authorities. The authorities realizing they had a true treasure in their hands offered the Jews a deal, we will release the rabbi in exchange for an exorbitant amount of gold. The great rabbi ruled that this should not be done. He himself refused to be part of this "hostage deal". He warned that if the community agreed to pay "any price" this would lead to other great rabbis, all over Germany and the so called Holy Roman Empire being abduced and held for ransom. The Jewish community would not be able to pay such sums of money and this would lead to the communities being bereft of rabbis and teachers. No, the good of the community came first, and the deal should not be approved. 

The rabbi died in prison but the authorities still would not release his body as they knew that the Jews have great respect even for a dead body. Note how similar this is to our own situation where the Arabs hold on to bodies of dead Israeli soldiers, sometimes for years, hoping to exchange them for a good price. One dead Israeli is worth over 100 convicted terrorists. 

Fourteen years after his death, a ransom was paid for his body by Alexander ben Salomon Wimpfen, who was subsequently laid to rest beside him in the Jewish cemetery of Worms

No further abductions of rabbis took place. Don't make a bad trade. 

Back to our own times, let's take a quick review of hostage deals. 

The Jibril Agreement (Arabic: اتفاقية جبريل, romanized: Ittifāqīyat Jibrīl) or "Jibril Deal" (Hebrew: עסקת ג'יבריל, romanized: Iskat Jibril) was a prisoner exchange deal which took place on May 21, 1985 between the Israeli government, then headed by Shimon Peres, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (an organization often known as just 'PFLP-GC'). As part of the agreement, Israel released 1,150 security prisoners held in Israeli prisons in exchange for three Israeli prisoners (Yosef Grof, Nissim Salem, Hezi Shai) captured during the First Lebanon War.

Among those Arab prisoners released was a man named Ahmed Yassin. You may recognize the name, he became the founder of the Hamas terrorist organization. 

In 2006 Hamas terrorists, i.e. members of the group founded by released prisoner Ahmed Yassin, invaded Israel, killed several soldiers and took a soldier by the name of Gilad Shalit as a hostage. Israel tried for a long time to retrive him but failed. After extensive pressure from his family the Israeli leadership softened and agreed to an atrocious deal, 1,027 convicted Arab terrorists for this one, rather inadequate, soldier. Many of these prisoners had killed Israeli civilians, others had planned and tried. Now they would have another opportunity. Those who opposed the deal called it the "Greatest victory for terrorism", sadly, their words would prove to be all too true. The October 7, 2023, massacre was planned and arranged by Yahya Sinwar who was freed in the prisoner exchange.

Thus, the Jibril deal (1,150 Arabs for 3 Israelis) lead to the Shalit capture, the Shalit deal (1,027 Arabs for 1 Israeli) led to the October 7 massacre of 1,400 and the abduction of 240 Israelis and Thais and many other nationalities. If we continue to agree to these hostage exchange deals, what will the future bring? Is it truly a mystery? Does one need to be a military genius to see where this will lead us?

Let us look back to our Biblical ancestors and see how they tackled the issue of hostage negotiations. Let us begin with the Patriarch Abraham. The names of all these locations and kingdoms have been validated by archeologists and historians. The nature of the events described in the Biblical narrative fit in with the history of the times, according to experts in the fields of archeology. Abraham, known at the time as Abram, is notified that his nephew Lot was taken hostage. Apparently, the idea was to extract a large ransom from the well-known and wealthy Abram, how did Abram handle this?

In the fourteenth year, Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him went out and defeated the Rephaites in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzites in Ham, the Emites in Shaveh Kiriathaim and the Horites in the hill country of Seir, as far as El Paran near the desert.  Then they turned back and went to En Mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and they conquered the whole territory of the Amalekites, as well as the Amorites who were living in Hazezon Tamar.

Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboyim and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) marched out and drew up their battle lines in the Valley of Siddim against Kedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goyim, Amraphel king of Shinar and Arioch king of Ellasar—four kings against five.  Now the Valley of Siddim was full of tar pits, and when the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some of the men fell into them and the rest fled to the hills.  The four kings seized all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food; then they went away.  They also carried off Abram’s nephew Lot and his possessions, since he was living in Sodom.

A man who had escaped came and reported this to Abram the Hebrew. Now Abram was living near the great trees of Mamre the Amorite, a brother of Eshkol and Aner, all of whom were allied with Abram. When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan.  During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus.  He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people.

 After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).

 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying,

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
    Creator of heaven and earth.
 And praise be to God Most High,
    who delivered your enemies into your hand.”  (Genesis Chapter 14)

We see here that the four kings who were allied and had defeated the five kings who opposed them, a powerful force, took all the possessions of Sodom and Gomorrah. They also took Lot the nephew of Abram (later to be renamed Abraham), in the hope of receiving ransom for him from the wealthy Abram. Abram did not negotiate, he understood the people he lived among, and he understood that they only understood one language, the language of force. Abraham was a peaceful man but he was also a man of war. Every member of his household was trained in the art of war (I discuss this and many other Biblical battles in my book, "Israel, A Nation of Warriors). Abram gathered his man and went out to war. He attacked at night, in total darkness, he divided his men and attacked from various angles in order to throw the enemy into confusion.  He not only defeated his enemy but continued to pursue them as far as Damascus. You don't leave the battle with the job half done!

Upon his return we see the results; not only did he bring back his nephew, but he also retrieved other hostages. (similar to today with the Thai hostages who have been released). The neighboring kings gained tremendous respect for Abram and brought tribute to him, seeking him as an ally. They unanimously proclaimed Abram as ruler over them, as he had proven himself in battle. Malchizedek, a powerful ruler himself proclaimed, "Blessed be Abram of the Almighty, the Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth." 

That is how it works. Strong action brings respect and prevents the deed from happening again. 

Let us continue with other examples.

Dina, the daughter of our Patriarch Jacob, was taken against her will, and violated. Shimon and Levi, her brothers took action. 

"Now Dinah, the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob and reared in the tradition of chastity, went out to have a look at the girls of the land and familiarize herself with their way of life. Shechem, the son of Hamor, the Hivite, the chieftain of the land, saw her and took her by force; he lay with her and violated her.  He became enthralled by passion with Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, and loved the maiden, and spoke persuasively to the maiden. Shechem also spoke to his father, Hamor, 'Get me this girl as a wife'. Now Jacob found out that his daugther Dinh was defiled, while his sons were with the cattle in the field. Jacob kept silent until they had arrived. 

...When the sons heard of this, they were very grieved, and they were very angry, for he had perpetrated a vile deed in Israel, in lying with the daughter of Jacob, a thing which is repulsive to the house of Israel, and MUST NOT BE ALLOWED TO HAPPEN. 

...on the Third day when the men of Shechem were in pain (for they had agreed to become circumcised in order to intermarry with the House of Jacob, a ploy, a trick perpetrated by the sons of Jacob) two sons of Jacob, Shimon and Levi, Dinah's brothers, without consulting their father, each took his sword and turned on the city. They were confident.  and so they killed all the males, in retribution for the scheming of the possessions of the belongings of the family of  Jacob. (for they had planned to intermarry and thus take all the wealth of Jacob for themselvs) And they sought and found Hamor and his son Shechem and killed them with the edge of the sword, and they took Dinah out of Shechem's house and left. 

Then the sons of Jacob came up the slain persons and plundered the inhabitants of the city, with whose approval their sister had been defiled. 

...Jacob said to Shimon and Levi, 'You have besmirched me, causing me to be abhorred by the inhabitants of the land, namely the Canaanite and Perizites, and I am few in numbers, they will gather against me and attack me, and I shall be destroyed, I and my family. 

But the brothers answered, 'Shall we allow our sister to be treated as a harlot? Let it be a warning to all who want to make harlots of our sisters,''" (Genesis Chapter 34)

Now clearly the members of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, (and the International Red Cross, and the United Nations) have forgotten this Biblical lesson. Or perhaps they thought this was just ancient literature, but it is not. It is alive for us, and the now the brothers, Shimon and Levi, have new names, but old names. The brothers, the sons of Jacob are called the IDF - Israel Defense Forces, and among the soldiers I am certain there are many with the names Shimon and Levi, and Jacob, and Moshe, as we have kept our traditions, and our names, this is the same land that Jacob and his sons inhabited, we have been here ever since. We are the same people, and our neighbors must understand this lesson, You shall NOT defile our sisters. and now the soldiers, the brothers of the raped women of October 7, 2023, have entered the town, as did their ancestors, but this time the sword is called a Tavor rifle, an M16, a Merkava tank, an F-35 fighter plane, and they have slain those who committed these hideous acts and those that supported them and did not protest. Shimon and Levi understood how things work, if we do not stand up for our sister, she will be made a harlot. No, such a thing shall not be done in Israel. We will not allow it.

Hostage Negotiation - Jacob and his family entered into negotiations (read the Biblical chapter to get all the details, Genesis, Chapter 34), but they used deceit, they knew whom they were dealing with, and they outsmarted the enemy, and they went in with force, and they liberated the hostage. Now that is a successul hostage release. For let the world know - Such a thing shall not be tolerated in Israel. For it was not so long ago that our mothers, and our sisters, and our daughters, were taken to the forest, stripped naked, and shot dead. It was not long ago that Nazi officers told attractive Jewish women to underdress in front of them and display their beauty, before entering the gas chambers. We remember Franceska Mann who refused to cooperate, and she killed a Nazi before allowing him this pleasure. The world needs to know, the world needs to understand. 

One more example for now. I think this one speaks for itself and needs no explaning, it comes from Samuel Book 1, Chapter 30. A lesson from King David

When David and his men reached Ziklag three days later, they discovered that the Amalekites had raided the desert hill country. They had attacked Ziklag in David’s absence, burned it, 2 and carried away the women and all the other inhabitants whom David had left behind. None of them were killed, but they were taken captive and carried back toward Amalek.

3 So David and his men arrived in the burned city and found their wives, daughters, and sons gone, taken captive by the Amalekite raiders. 4 And when they saw this, they cried out and wept aloud until they could weep no more. 5 David’s wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel, were among those carried off.

6 David, too, was in anguish. Some of his men talked about stoning him because they were so bitter about their families being taken. But David took comfort in the Eternal One, his True God.

7 He called for the priest, Abiathar, son of Ahimelech, and instructed him to bring the priestly vest, which he did.

David (to the Lord): 8 Should we pursue these raiders? Can we catch them?

Eternal One: Go after them. You will catch them, and you will certainly rescue your families.

9-10 So David set out with his 600 men. They came to the wadi Besor, a dry creek bed where he left behind 200 men who were too exhausted to continue the pursuit.

11 In the open country beyond, some of his soldiers found an Egyptian. They took him to David, fed him, and gave him water. 12 They gave him some fig cake and two clusters of raisins. After the man had eaten, he regained his strength. He had not had food or water for three days and nights.

David: 13 Who are your people? Where are you from?

Egyptian: I am a young man of Egypt who served an Amalekite, but my master left me behind three days ago because I was sick. 14 We had gone raiding in the desert country, against the Cherethites and the territories of Judah and of Caleb, and we burned down the town of Ziklag.

David: 15 Can you lead me to this raiding party?

Egyptian: I will take you to them, if you will swear to me by the True God that you won’t kill me or give me back to my master.

16 He led David to where the Amalekites were spread out all over the place eating and drinking and dancing, because they had taken such great spoils in their raids against Philistia and Judah. 17 David fought against them from one twilight to the next, and he killed all of them except for 400 young men who escaped on camels.

18 So David recovered everything that had been taken, including his two wives. 19 Nothing was missing—from the smallest thing to the greatest treasure, none of the sons or daughters, no property of any kind. David brought everything home. 20 David also captured their flocks and herds, which they were driving ahead of other livestock, and the people agreed this would be David’s share of the Amalekites’ property.

21 David and his people returned to the wadi Besor, where the 200 had remained behind, and those men went out to meet David and all those with him. As David approached, he greeted them. 22 But some of the wicked and greedy ones who had fought alongside David spoke out.

Wicked Men: Because these men didn’t go with us, why should we give them back the things we recovered for them? Sure, let them take back their wives and their children. But that’s all. We’ll keep the rest, and they must leave.

David: 23 My brothers, this is not how we’re going to treat what the Eternal One has returned to us. He saved us and gave us success over the raiding party that sacked our city. 24 Why would anyone agree with you about this matter? The share of the one who fights is the same as the share of the one who looks after the supplies. We all share equally.

25 In fact, he made this a law and an ordinance, and it remains so in Israel today.

26 And after David returned to Ziklag, he gave part of the spoil he had taken to his friends who ruled over Judah, with the message, “This is a present for you taken from the enemies of the Eternal.”

27 These gifts were sent to Bethel, to Ramoth in the desert south, to Jattir, 28 to Aroer, to Siphmoth, to Eshtemoa, 29 to Racal, to the towns of the Jerahmeelites, to the towns of the Kenites, 30 to Hormah, to Bor-ashan, to Athach, 31 and to Hebron—all places where David and his men had lived and traveled.


Moshe Katz, 7th dan Black Belt, Israeli Krav Maga. Certified by Wingate Institute. Member Black Belt hall of fame, USA and Europe.

Understand the Israeli Fighting Mentality - Israel a Nation of Warriors by Moshe Katz


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