Bringing Shalit home


Three years since Gilad Shalit’s kidnapping and with fresh talk of a deal in the works to release him, Ha’aretz offers a profile of the Shalit family’s struggle to bring Gilad home:

The vociferous argument that erupted last week in the protest tent near the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem was broken off by the sound applause: Noam Shalit had arrived.

"Can I help with something?" he asked the 30 people present. The argument renewed – about whether there was a point to demonstrating in front of the Red Cross’ offices in favor of the release of Noam’s son, kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. Noam Shalit waited patiently until even the most heated speakers remembered that they were there to hear what he had to say. But the quiet voice of this mild-mannered man was drowned out by the buses on the street and the loud music blaring from cars.

"Speak up, we can’t hear you," someone said.

"That’s a problem," Shalit replied.

"The Shalits from Mitzpeh Hila are probably the easiest family of a prisoner that the government could deal with," a person close to the campaign said. "The family is doing all it can, but there are many things it is not doing and which cannot be done if Noam objects."

No objective observers have seen Corporal Gilad Shalit since he was abducted three years and one day ago (June 25, 2006), from an army post just inside Israel on the border of the Gaza Strip. In March, an exceptionally intensive effort by the family to pressure then-prime minister Ehud Olmert to bring Gilad back before the end of Olmert’s term ended in disappointment. The Prime Minister’s Bureau claimed that the protesters were making Hamas ratchet up its demands and were thus torpedoing the negotiations.

In the meantime, the Olmert government has been succeeded by a more hawkish government and Hamas is apparently not softening its demands. The negotiations for Gilad’s release have resumed only now, after a three-month hiatus.

"A new government has taken office, and it was only natural that our activity fell off," explains Noam Shalit, who met last week with 30 out of a total of 400 volunteers who have manned the protest tent nonstop for the past nine months.

Shalit has decided to give Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu breathing space to "acquaint himself with the subject" and to set a target date for Gilad’s return, says Shimshon Liebman, a resident of Mitzpeh Hila and a leader in the campaign to free Gilad.

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