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Gilad Shalit Returns Home After Five Years in Captivity

“Shehecheeyanu v’kiyimanu v’higiyanu lazman hazeh. Blessed are You, G-d, who has granted us life, sustained us and enabled us to reach this occasion.”

A terrorist group of Palestinians crossed the border 1,941 days ago, killed Hanan Barak and Pavel Slotzker, and kidnapped Gilad Schalit.

Today, after 1,941 days in the dark, Gilad Schalit is home.  

For 1,941 days, the Schalit family was embraced by the Israeli public and by world Jewry. Most of us hung a yellow ribbon in our cars, participated in rallies, visited the protest tent near Prime Minister Netanyahu’s home, wore the Gilad T-shirt, and sang the tens of songs written in honor of Gilad in order to raise awareness.  

For 1,941 days, the Schalit family led a public campaign to obtain release of their son. They met with as many public figures, diplomats, and delegates of foreign governments as possible. In June 2010 the family led the longest march ever undertaken in Israel for one person, from the Schalit home in the Galilee to Jerusalem. The march ended at the protest tent, where the family settled in and never left.

For 1,941 days, Gilad lost his anonymity and became ours. Most of us don’t know Gilad personally, but his abduction made him a public figure and he belonged to all of us. Tonight, after the official State ceremony, in his own bed with his close family surrounding him, he will slowly begin his journey back to life, peeling away his public face and getting used to being just Gilad again. A few months ago Aviva, Gilad’s mother, wrote: “It still surprises me, how everyone knows Gilad. Secretly, I’m happy we chose to name him Gilad. Such an Israeli name, Biblical. My shy boy’s face is now known in every home. His bashful smile stares back at me from posters, stickers, T-shirts and newspaper articles. But Gilad is not a poster or a cardboard cutout. He is a person. Alive, flesh and blood. My Gilad is their Gilad, too .maybe I’m being selfish. I just want those anonymous days back, when I was just Aviva Schalit and my son was just my son, with his path winding ahead of him, free for him to do with as he pleases.”

For 1,941 days, the public in Israel shared the prayer for Gilad’s release, but debated the price. Across from the Schalit protest tent, families of terror victims had their own protest tent. They protested against the release of their loved ones’ murderers. Yestrday bereaved families filed a petition with the High Court of Justice. They claim the release of 1,027 terrorists, many with blood on their hands, is immoral and dangerous.

For 1,941 days we debated, with tears in our eyes, who is right and who is wrong. What tent should we support? Maybe both? The truth, as in many cases, is somewhere in the middle. No one is right and everyone is. Will Israeli young men and women join the army knowing the state will not do everything in its power to release them in the case of capture? And what prevents terrorists from kidnapping Israeli soldiers, if they are sure that the IDF will release hundreds of their colleagues in return for one Israeli soldier?

As in most events in Israel, like the impossible connection between Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haatzmaut, between a day of national mourning and a day of celebration, today will be marked in our history books as a day of celebration, of unity, of pride in our human values. However, today we should pay our respect and remember all terror victims, embrace the Schalit family, and the hundreds of bereaved families that cry and ask for their loved ones’ forgiveness. And above all, today we should pray that we never face this dilemma again and that the Bereaved family will never grow. 

For 1,941 days, Gilad’s parents were pleading, save our child, bring him back to us, alive, before it’s too late!

For 277 Shabbat candlelightings I prayed, along with many other Jewish women around the world, for Gilad’s release and return home, safe and sound. Gilad’s parents’ plea was answered, our prayers were heard. Gilad is home!


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