NEW YORK (JTA) — On the 1,900th day of Gilad Shalit’s captivity, New York proclaimed Gilad Shalit Day in the city.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, surrounded by 15 City Council members, Jewish leaders and Israel’s general consul in New York, Ido Aharoni, read and presented the framed proclamation Wednesday to Shalit’s father, Noam.
"We have no right to feel discouraged about the situation in the Middle East when someone like you keeps working," Quinn told Noam Shalit during her speech.
Noam Shalit is in New York this week meeting with ambassadors and human rights organizations attempting to garner support for the campaign to free his son, an Israeli soldier who has been held captive by Hamas for more than five years.
"Every day is harder," Noam Shalit said during a brief statement at the conference. "And we appreciate any attention and help."
Gilad Shalit, who turned 25 in August, has been denied access to humanitarian organizations, and repeated negotiations to secure his release in exchange for Palestinian prisoners have failed.
"He wasn’t shooting people. He was guarding the border," said Mike Nelson, a Brooklyn councilman and head of the council’s Jewish caucus. "But even worse is the inhumanity with which he’s been treated."
Gilad Shalit Day was spearheaded by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which contacted Quinn’s office two weeks before Noam Shalit’s arrival. The Presidents Conference and other City Council members praised Quinn, the likely front-runner in the 2013 mayoral election, for quickly taking action.
"We hope this day will soon be one of celebration for the Shalit family," Presidents Conference Chairman Richard Stone told JTA. Last year the organization placed billboards supporting Shalit in Times Square.
"I hope that Prime Minister Netanyahu and Hamas will reach a deal to exchange Gilad for Palestinian prisoners," said Noam Shalit. "That is the only way. "We hope he’ll be home for Rosh HaShanah."
New York joins San Francisco in proclaiming Gilad Shalit Day. The West Coast city’s mayor made a similar proclamation on Aug. 28.