A personal visit with Gilad Shalit's family
By Margaux Chetrit
For the last 1000 days, Gilad Shalit has been held captive as a prisoner of war in Gaza. Since his abduction in a cross-border raid over two and a half years ago, his name and his cause have flowed freely in and out of headlines and public consciousness at the same leisure as global warming.
Like the subject of global warming, we know it is about time we do something to change its course. Certain groups maintain a constant urgency with regards to both of these causes. But generally, it is not in our top priorities; except of course, when a violent political storm erupts and the subject can no longer be ignored; all our other thoughts are drowned out with the sudden deafening clarity of the ticking time bomb. Then the subject receives our undivided attention- for the day, or for the week, at the very most.
Unfortunately, I am guilty of this behavior as much as anybody else. Save for a token prayer and some pocket-change donations, I have done just as much to ensure Gilad Shalit's release as the Israeli government - and this is to mean very little.
Since the beginning of the week, however, I have been living with the constant reminder of this prisoner of war's struggle. I refuse to stand by idly as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ignores the paramount subject held in his accountability and subsequently adds yet another failure to his legacy.
On the day of Purim of this year, I visited the Shalit family and met with Gilad's cousins and uncle under their protest tent erected in front of the Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem, as his parents sat with the president begging for their son's life.
I was surprised to be personally greeted by members of the family who welcomed me like we were old friends. We shared stories, and pleasantries. I brought them something sweet and they offered me a drink and through this short exchange, I felt their warmth and it gave me an impression of deep connectedness to them and to their cause. In just a few words, they managed to etch a more humane image of their beloved cousin and nephew in my heart, one that went beyond the generic image of Gilad, the soldier that I had retained from the media coverage.
Leaving the tent, I was reminded of words Gilad's mother had written in a letter dated November of last year. She denounced the Israeli government for failing to use every means at their disposal to free Gilad. She went on to call Gilad, "her son and the son of all Israelis." Gathered with the family, at that very moment, I was able to understand exactly what she meant. Gilad, the soldier, could have actually been Gilad, my son, or Gilad, my brother or my cousin, Gilad. He could have maybe even been Gilad, my neighbor, or Gilad, my friend. I know if he had been any of those, I would have fought much more passionately and with greater fervor for his freedom. If we internalize Aviva Shalit's words and put action to the words in Ethics of our Fathers (Pirke Avot) that command all Israel is responsible one for the other, the Shalit family would not have to spend another day wondering about Gilad because our thoughts would rotate the whole day long around his return and together we would facilitate it.
Like global warming, I suspect a many feel paralyzed in the face of such a huge crisis despite their desire to act. Apathy is not an option in this mission to save our son. We must put pressure on the Israeli government and international leaders worldwide to exhaust the options to ensure Gilad Shalit's safe return to the country he so bravely risked his short life for.
We must stand united and stand steadfastly in the face of Hamas, and other Palestinian terrorists and thugs who abuse Israel's sensitivity towards human life and insist on negotiating on unequal ground.
We want Gilad Shalit to be returned. The negotiation and release of masses of Arab terrorists with blood on their hands is not an option as it would only feed the blood lust raging throughout the territories and force us to add names to the list that already includes our other sons, Ron Arad, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev and hundreds upon hundreds of victims of terrorism. By negotiating with terrorists, we ourselves become terrorists, as we put our lives and the lives of our sons and cousins and neighbors and friends in their bloody hands.
Israel and the Jewish people are by no means terrorists. As the terrorists applaud death, we differentiate ourselves by striving for life and that is what has guaranteed our existence and promises our survival. We must remember this when we think of Gilad Shalit and apply this in a manner that will facilitate the release of our son soon... because it's the only way we know how.
Margaux Chetrit holds a B.A in psychology and Jewish studies from McGill and an M.A in education from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She is currently interning for an Israeli parlimentary caucus at the Knesset.
from the April 2009 Passover Edition of the Jewish Magazine