On June 25th 2006, 19 year old Cpl. Gilad Shalit was captured on the Kerem Shalom Crossing by Hamas militants. Nearly three years later, the 22 year old staff sergeant remains in the dangerous hands of this Palestinian terrorist organization. His kidnapping, followed by the abduction of two other Israeli soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, arguably instigated fighting in the 2006 Second Lebanon War. Whereas Regev and Goldwasser’s remains were returned to Israel this past July in exchange for Palestinian prisoners, Shalit, who, as evidence proves, is still living, remains in captivity.
The situation is understandably agonizing for Gilad’s family– Shalit’s abduction is a clear violation of international law and Hamas is technically accountable for a war crime. Yet despite the sorrow and aggravation, the Shalit family has shown a tremendous amount of strength throughout the ordeal. Parents Aviva and Noam, brother Yoel and sister Hadas have risen to the occasion and taken incredible actions to increase awareness and support for their beloved’s release. Since his abduction, Israeli and Palestinian representatives have ridden a rollercoaster of talks, chiefly mediated by Egypt, none of which have ended successfully.
Saturday March 21st marked Gilad’s 1000th day in captivity. To show their solidarity, his family set up a tent in Jerusalem outside the Prime Minister’s home from March 9th until the 21st. While negotiations were being discussed in the final days of Olmert’s administration, Noam explained that the goal of having the Hatzilu tent was “to remind everyone that the window of opportunity is closing, and to bring the issue to the public.” The family saw many visitors – individuals, school groups, tourists – and was extremely grateful to see the widespread concern and support for their cause. “Aviva and I would like to extend a thankful embrace to all of you,” Noam said.
As Olmert leaves the government and Netanyahu takes over, the family seems to have mixed reactions. Noam Shalit feels strongly that it was entirely Olmert’s responsibility to return Gilad and is quite dismayed that he ended his term without doing so. While they might worry that the incoming coalition will not devote enough attention to the aging issue, they remain hopeful: “we have nothing short of a miracle to look forward to.”
For more on Gilad Shalit, including an aural recording of a message Gilad sent a few months ago, visit: www.habanim.org
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