Last night I attended the Solidarity meeting for the kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, who as of yesterday, has been in captivity for a full 1000 days. I joined the journalists and Israeli citizens, some of whom had driven several hours from all over the country to support the Shalit family; three weeks ago, they moved out of their home and into the protest tent across from the Prime Minister's house in Jerusalem.
Unfortunately, the Shalit family are returning to their home this morning, as the latest rounds of negotiations for Gilad's safe return have failed, and it looks like the responsibility will fall to the incoming Netanyahu government. I never trusted Ehud Olmert to get the job done: he had three years and only made it a priority when he was literally on his way out of office, and had to save his legacy and reputation.
Before the ceremony began, a PA system played a tape in Gilad's voice, saying, "My name is Gilad, son of Noam Shalit, a prisoner of Hamas. Save me." All the more heartbreaking when you know his mother and father and brother, his friends and relatives, have been living this reality every day.
Noam Shalit put Netanyahu on notice, saying that the incoming PM would not have his 100 days of political honeymoon; that the family and the country expected Gilad back not in "one hundred days, or ten days, or even ten hours." 1000 days have already passed, with opportunities wasted.
Meir Shalev, the noted Israeli author, encouraged the government to stop protecting their own "red lines" and put Gilad Shalit first. Notably absent the entire evening: both Ehud Olmert and Bibi Netanyahu, literal neighbors of the Shalit protest tent. Shame on them, they couldn't roll out of bed to support this family and encourage the country with some leadership?
The rally ended with a group prayer more inspirational than any Yom Kippur I have ever experienced, and of course with HaTikva. By the time we got to the Israeli national anthem, the crowd could barely sing, so choked up with tears.
What price Gilad? How many terrorists can and should be released to bring him home? I don't know how to answer that question.
But G-d keep Gilad safe and bring him home, so that he does not become another Ron Arad.