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Historical Hijackings

Rabbi Yehoshua Alt


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Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg ztz”l. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications and is the author of the books, Fascinating Insights and Incredible Insights. His writings inspire people across the spectrum of Jewish observance to live with the vibrancy and beauty of Torah. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes, and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

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Historical Hijackings

R’ Ovadia Yosef[1] wrote a long response about Operation Entebbe in Uganda caused by the flight from Tel Aviv to Paris in 1976 that was hijacked diverting it to Entebbe, Uganda: Would the government have been allowed to release the 40 terrorists demanded in return for the lives of the Jewish passengers? This may be problematic because if there would be this exchange then it may lead to another kidnapping so that they can free even more terrorists. Another concern was that almost certainly the terrorists that would be released would attempt to kill more Jews. After a lengthy discussion R’ Ovadia concludes that gedolai Torah were discussing this from a halachic standpoint when suddenly the prime minister Yitzchak Rabin came to them to inform them that the Israeli army was successful in killing the hijackers and their cohorts in Uganda and releasing the Jewish hostages who were now on their way to Israel.


An Israeli soldier involved in Operation Entebbe related to a high school class that he was speaking to that Havdala was recited on the Entebbe airfield’s runway. He then said that he made the bracha of Meorei Ha’aish on the burning wreckage of the Ugandan air force which supported the terrorists.


Another hijacking that targeted Jews took place in 1970. On September 6, 1970, R’ Yitzchak Hutner, his daughter, and son-in-law R’ Yonasan David were on a flight from Eretz Yisrael to New York that was hijacked by Palestinian terrorists. The terrorists freed the non-Jewish passengers and held the Jewish passengers hostage. R’ Hutner was held alone in an isolated location while Jews around the world prayed for his safe release.[2] In the United States, there was talk about raising money to ransom R’ Hutner, but R’ Yaakov Kamenetsky ruled against the move. Although there is a halachic basis[3] for paying an exorbitant sum to save a great Torah leader, R’ Yaakov ruled that this applies only during peacetime, and Israel’s ongoing struggle with terrorism constitutes war.[4]


There were young children traveling alone on this flight—ten-year-old Yosef Trachtman and eight-year-old Tziporah Moran. As soon as passengers realized the plane was being hijacked, R’ Hutner’s two students on the flight—Yaakov Drillman who later became the Rosh Yeshiva of Beis Yosef Navordok and Meir Fund who later became the Rav of Beis Medrash Sheves Achim—moved from their own seats to sit next to the two unaccompanied children. Eight-year-old Tziporah was carrying documents from both the United States and Israel. Yaakov Drillman knew that signs of Israeli citizenship would put the girl in danger. He therefore ripped her Israeli documents into tiny shreds and swallowed them.


Here is one last anecdote. When Chacham Yosef Harari-Raful, Rosh Yeshiva of Ateret Torah, was given a cup of water on Erev Shabbos, on this hijacked flight, he dipped his shirt into it to cleanse his clothing, in order to do something l’kavod Shabbos, for the honor of Shabbos!

[1] Yabia Omer, volume 10, Choshen Mishpat 6.

[2] While the remaining passengers were being held, the hijackers realized that R’ Hutner was a leader of the Jewish world. Although they generally treated him with respect, they did confiscate a bag in which he kept his precious writings of chiddushei Torah that he had accumulated over his lifetime, and they did not return it upon his release. His close followers went to great lengths to retrieve the chiddushim, offering financial rewards for their return. Even though there were several instances when the intermediaries thought they might be successful, nothing materialized and the writings remain lost to this day.

[3] Gittin 58a, Tosafos.

[4] B’ikvei Hatzon, pp. 206-207. R’ Yaakov maintained that Israel has been in a constant state of war (from a halachic perspective) since the establishment of the state.


Author of three books including the recently released Extraordinary Insights

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