The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has noted that there is an important Jewish precedent which argues against paying the ransom to Hamas of freeing 1,000 Arab terrorists for the release of Corporal Gilad Schalit, as is presently being contemplated by the Israeli government. ZOA has pointed to the classic and well-known episode of Rabbi Meir of Rothenberg (1215-1293), a preeminent Jewish sage and leader of Jewry in his day, who was kidnapped and imprisoned by King Rudolf I in 1286. A large ransom of 23,000 marks silver was demanded by the authorities for his release. Rabbi Meir himself ruled against the payment by the Jewish community of any such ransom on the basis that, while the obligation of redeeming captives (pidyon shivuyim) was an important Jewish commandment, no ransom should be paid for fear of encouraging the imprisonment of other rabbis and Jewish leaders. Rabbi Meir died in prison.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, The ZOA has argued consistently against freeing terrorists even in exchange for kidnapped, innocent Israelis. Our reasoning has been consistent with Rabbi Meirs ruling that to encourage more such kidnappings is a prospect too terrible to contemplate, even at the price of failing to free a kidnapped, innocent Jew. No exception was made, even for a revered rabbinic authority and leader. In the case of Gilad Schalit, the argument against ransoming him from Hamas terrorists is even more compelling then it was in Rabbi Meirs case. In Rabbi Meirs case, the main risk was encouraging more such kidnappings and ransoms. Here, as we have previously argued, the record shows that there is a significant percentage of terrorists who have been released in the past have gone on to commit more murders and violence against Jews, not to mention the uplifting and enhancement of Hamas terrorists.
However much it hurts us and it does greatly