Noam and Zvi Shalit, the father and grandfather of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, arrived Monday morning at the home of Shas' spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, in Jerusalem's Har Nof neighborhood.
The rabbi expressed his optimism that the affair would reach its end soon, and even invited Gilad to visit his home upon his return.
At the start of the meeting, Rabbi Yosef blessed the Shalit family, Gilad Shalit and all Israel Defense Forces soldiers." As far as God is concerned, Gilad is sacred and he will save him from the hands of these evil people," he said.
Noam Shalit said as he left the rabbi's house, "I hope Rabbi Ovadia's support will influence the issue, which is now critical and hot. He has a lot of influence on the public, and thus it is very important that Shas' public will continue to support Gilad's release."
Shalit added that the meeting left him strengthened.
Noam and Zvi Shalit at Rabbi Yosef's home (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
The Shas party said in a statement that Shalit's parents were the ones who asked to meet with the rabbi. Industry, Trade and Labor Minister and Shas Chairman Eli Yishai was also invited to the meeting.
Yishai said upon leaving the rabbi's house, "The period until the elections is a window of opportunities for Gilad's release." He added that "as the discussions on the Shalit issue increase, the price set by Hamas for him rises as well."
According to recent reports since the end of Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, some progress has been made in the talks for a prisoner exchange deal with Hamas.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak expressed his hope this week that the affair would end immediately after the elections, before the Olmert government completes its tenure. The prime minister himself appointed Minister for Pensioner Affairs Rafi Eitan to join the team working to secure Shalit's release.
Noam Shalit met last week with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who told him that as far as he knew, his son Gilad – who is also a French citizen – was still alive.