The past few months have brought exciting developments in stories that Jews worldwide have been following for years.
Since 2008, three Israeli Hasidic young men were being held in a Japanese prison on drug-smuggling charges. They had naively agreed to carry luggage given to them by someone who said they held antique artifacts, unaware that there were actually large amounts of drugs hidden in the suitcases.
Two of the boys were convicted and given sentences of five and six years, which they are completing in Israeli prisons. In August, the third was acquitted and released to Israel, fulfilling the prayers that thousands of Jews have said on his behalf. His acquittal was heralded as an unprecedented victory as it was the first time a Japanese court, known for its high conviction rates in drug-related charges, admitted the testimony of an American law enforcement expert.
The next story involves a Jewish prisoner in the United States. Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin was arrested on financial fraud charges in 2008, and was sentenced last year to 27 years in prison, a virtual life sentence for the middle-aged father of ten. Numerous prominent politicians and lawyers agree that the sentence is far out of proportion to Rubashkin’s crime, and Jewish advocacy groups, leaders and laypeople have spoken out against the unfair sentence.
A petition calling for President Obama’s investigation into this judicial misconduct was created in late September on the new White House “We the People” website. Incredibly, by mid-October, the petition had already been signed by 50,000 people, making it one of the top petitions on the site. We continue to pray that the president will respond favorably to the petition. Meanwhile, Rubashkin’s lawyers prepare for the next stages in the legal battle.
Finally, the story of Gilad Shalit, the young Israeli soldier imprisoned by Hamas since 2006, who has been in the hearts of Israelis and Jews everywhere. Kept in solitary confinement with no visitors and no connection to the outside world for five years, it was hard to continue to hope that Shalit would ever come home alive. But just a week ago, that is finally what happened.
It was a controversial move on Israel’s part, as the ransom was steep: 1,000 Palestinian terrorist prisoners were given in his exchange. Nevertheless, his return home is the answer to the prayers offered by thousands of Jews for years.
There are others still in our prayers, such as Jonathan Pollard, serving an unfair life sentence in American prison as an Israeli spy. The above stories give us hope that all our prayers will be answered.