With his son nearing a thousand days in Hamas captivity, Noam Shalit continues his tireless mission to keep Gilad in the public consciousness.
Speaking at an all-night solidarity event organized by students of Blich High School in Ramat Gan on Thursday, Shalit sought to not only emphasize the government's responsibility to see Gilad released but also issued an emphatic plea to his captors.
"I call on the leaders of Hamas, in Damascus and elsewhere, I say loud and clear what many Palestinians in Gaza dare not and cannot say out loud – stop holding us, the regular citizens, the uninvolved, the families of prisoners who could have been home by now – stop holding us as political hostages, as hostages of an imaginary resistance," Shalit said.
"Resistance against what? Against whom? Hostages of symbols that at best belong to yesterday's wars, to yesterday's world, which has since changed beyond recognition."
Speaking with Ynet after the event Shalit said the family remained cautiously optimistic. "This is the third year that we are caught between hope and despair," he added.
Asked whether plans were in place to pressure the next government on his son's case, Shalit said: "This government has yet to end its term, and even next Tuesday it will still be the government of the State of Israel for all intents and purposes. Until a new government is sworn in. (And so) We are demanding Shalit's release from the current government."
Earlier in the evening students heard a series of speeches regarding Gilad, and later on they will stay up all night and attend lessons dedicated to both Shalit's particular situation and broader themes such as the right of protest and the redemption of prisoners. In a special literature class they will read from the book Gilad authored.
Chairman of the Blich student council, Dor Gotschel: "Gilad hasn't slept in 956 nights and we decided that tonight we too won't sleep. This isn't about making a political statement, we want to increase awareness of the issue."
'Gilad chose to be a combat soldier'
Prior to addressing Hamas, Noam Shalit first thanked those present for their warm tribute. "This wonderful support has swept those who support Gilad, who for three years has been rotting away in Hamas' captivity in Gaza, in this ongoing nightmare, in the dark, in total isolation from the outside world, with only the thunder of planes and tanks and bombs penetrating the deathly silence of the basement he's being held in for 956 days and 956 long sleepless nights.
"A few months before he was kidnapped to Gaza Gilad was a young boy, like any one of you, a regular boy with friends and hobbies, ambitions and dreams. A boy who was motivated to give, to make sure his military service was meaningful, who went to combat service even though he could have chosen a non-combat unit.
"Gilad was supposed to have been discharged over six months ago. Like all the young people his age, if he were with us, he'd be trekking with his friends in the East or in South America, or just studying for the psychometric exam. But instead he is 'serving time' for the third year now in Hamas' prison in Gaza, and
the Israeli government and its leaders have failed to uphold their moral duty towards IDF soldiers sent by their government on a mission – their duty, which is also a mitzvah, that of redeeming prisoners."
Shalit called on Israel's youth to make its voice heard, "to call out loud and clear to the government and its premier to take advantage of the opportunity and conditions created here to end this sad affair, which began on their watch, and to end it before that watch is over. Gilad deserves freedom, he has paid his due to the State of Israel, and now it is time for the state to uphold its obligation to Gilad and his friends, the soldiers of the IDF."