Former captive soldier Gilad Shalit,
who was freed as part of a prisoner swap deal with Hamas
last October, celebrated his 26th birthday as a free man for the first time in seven years on Tuesday.
In a special column in Yedioth Ahronoth, Shalit thanked the people of Israel
who supported the campaign for his release.
is my first birthday
since my release. For the first time in seven years I am celebrating my birthday as I wish, as a free man," he wrote.
"I received many wishes from various people, some of whom I know, others I don't, some of whom marked my birthday in the years I spent in captivity without having even met me.
"That is why I chose to use this birthday to thank all those people. To thank the Jewish people for supporting the struggle for my release and not forgetting me, to thank the state and its institutions, and of course my family.
"On this day I simply want to say to you: Thank you."