Sunday, June 26, 2011

Gilad Shalit

At the risk of getting political, I wanted to tell this poignant story. Gilad Shalit is an Israeli, almost exactly two years younger than I am. After graduating high school he entered the IDF (remember I mentioned that it is compulsory) and less than a year later, on June 25, 2006, he was wounded and captured by Palestinian forces near the Gaza border.

His captors held him hostage-- reports of what precisely they demand vary, probably because it has changed over time, but it is something astounding like the release of all female and under 18 Palestinian prisoners, plus 1000 additional prisoners, nearly half of which are to be chosen by name by Hamas (so, the top terrorist leaders).

Israel is known for being remarkable in that they will pay an extremely high cost to protect and aid their soldiers; in 2008 they released nearly 200 prisoners in exchange for Hezbollah's return of two Israeli soldiers' dead bodies. However, Prime Minister Netanyahu has said that while Israel will pay a high price for the release of Gilad, they will not pay any price.

Gilad has been held hostage for exactly 5 years as of yesterday.  He is now 24 years old.  The only contact he has had with the outside world has been three letters, an audio tape, and a DVD that Israel received in return for releasing 20 female Palestinian prisoners. He has been held in violation of international human rights, being denied regular contact with his family and any visits from the Red Cross. 

Though the DVD is from September 2009, Gilad is still thought to be alive and the campaign for his release has intensified in the past few weeks surrounding the anniversary.  One year ago, Gilad's mother and father organized a march from their hometown to the Prime Minster's house, which happens to be literally steps from where I am living.  They set up a tent outside his gate and announced that they would not leave until Gilad is released.  Many of us have visited the tent; you can talk to his mother or father, buy a t shirt to support the effort or tie a yellow ribbon to the fence.

While the merits of giving in to Hamas' demands are easily debated, Gilad has become a national symbol and everyone prays that he will be able to come home safely.

At the time I took this photo, Gilad had been imprisoned for 1821 days, 16 hours, 59 minutes, 35 seconds.

1 comment:

Jordan said...

Ah. No further need to explain the tee-shirt of the last post. Such a tragic story. I can't imagine how his parents must feel after all of this time... :(