At rally for Shalit: 'Don't let our leaders sacrifice Gilad'
Parents of kidnapped soldier issue angry, painful plea asking Prime Minister Olmert to free their son at somber rally marking two-year anniversary since his abduction. Families of other MIA soldiers attend in show of solidarity, including Ron Arad's
Held under the banner of 'It's time to free Gilad,' the event also drew the attendance of two guests who could not only relate to the Shalit family's plight, but perhaps also serve as a cautionary tale – Chen and Yuval Arad, Ron Arad's brother and daughter. The Israeli navigator was captured in 1986 and his fate remains unknown.
"Don't let our leaders sacrifice Gilad," Chen implored of Gilad's parents, evoking the biblical terminology. "God instructed Abraham our father to sacrifice his son Isaac, but at the last moment told him - 'Do not raise your hand against the boy'. Our leaders do not appear to have a god.
"Our leaders who treat the soldiers they send forward like Roman emperors sending gladiators into the arena," he said, adding that the situation the captives were in reminded him of gladiators being thrown into a stadium and pitted against wild animals.
Yuval Arad greets Aviva Shalit, Chen Arad in background. (Photo: Hagai Aharon)
"Ron didn't enlist to flight school to be a gladiator, and Gilad didn't enlist to the Armor Corps to be a Shahid (martyr)," he said.
Arad recalled how the letters written by his brother from captivity "expressed the pain of someone hanging by a thread and in constant need of his captors' mercy."
Also in attendance were relatives of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, the two soldiers who were kidnapped by Hizbullah to Lebanon just weeks after the abduction of Shalit.
'Olmert, free my son'
Aviva Shalit, Gilad's mother, wrote a personal plea to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, which was read at the rally by her husband Noam. She preferred not to speak, as she was feeling unwell.
"Two whole years have gone by, 731 days and Gilad has not yet returned. Who would have believed that 731 days would go by, and Gilad is still in a dark and dingy hole, completely alone.
"Who would have believed that it has been 731 days and the prime minister, who took the matter under his full responsibility, has not been able to reach an agreement to bring Gilad back home. Who would have believed that 731 days have passed and Gilad cannot yet see the light of day, nor ever the light at the end of the tunnel."
Noam and Aviva Shalit at the rally (Photo: Hagai Aharon)
Shalit continued his wife's letter: "Today, from this stage, I call on the prime minister to make the decision, difficult as it may be, to bring Gilad home. Gilad was sent out by you on a mission, which he went to carry out without hesitation, and was kidnapped. Since then he has paid, and is paying, a price too heavy to bear. But when the government has to fulfill its highest moral duty to a soldier – nothing can
be taken for granted.
"I call on all the mothers in this country, on IDF soldiers and soldiers in the reserves, and youths preparing to enlist – to stand up, wake up, and cry out – to tell the prime minister in a loud and clear voice: It has been two years, enough with the high-brow rhetoric, enough with the hesitancy and foot-dragging. You have had all the time in the world, it's time for results.
"Free my son Gilad from that horrible captivity, fulfill your duty to the soldiers of the IDF."
Ashkenazi: Our duty to free them
IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, also addressed Shalit's captivity on Wednesday evening during a ceremony at the IDF's Command and Staff College.
"It is our deep and long-standing moral obligation to do everything in out power to bring back every one of our soldiers taken captive by the enemy in the line of duty as the defenders of the State of Israel. It is the duty of the Israeli public, and it is our duty as an army."