Upon arriving in the city, the marchers were expected to hold a rally at Independence Square. On Friday evening they planned to bring in the Shabbat outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's private residence in Caesarea.
Over the weekend the marchers will rest in Kibbutz Shefayim before heading to Tel Aviv on Sunday morning.
"More and more people understand that what we have done so far is not enough," said Shimshon Liebman, head of the campaign.
"It appears that the prime minister is not available to absorb what the people are trying to tell him," he told Ynet. "There is nothing here, no statement against the prime minister, just a crowd saying that it's time to return Gilad. We want to give the prime minister the power, and show him that there is a public which will give him the strength to make the right decision eventually."
Noam Shalit leads marchers (Photo: AFP)
Shalit's father, Noam, said Thursday evening that all Netanyahu was doing was "recycle (former Prime Minister Ehud) Olmert's press conferences from 2009." Instead of freeing Gilad, he continued, the prime minister describes terrible scenarios about terrorists who were released and then murdered Israelis, "as if nothing has changed since then."
He was responding to Netanyahu's address to the nation earlier Thursday, in which the prime minister presented his position on the negotiations for a prisoner exchange release with Hamas." We all want to bring Gilad back, but I bear general responsibility," he said.
"The call to pay any price is a natural cry from the hearts of his fathers, mothers, grandparents, brothers and sisters," he continued. "As a brother, as a father, as a son, I understand this cry from the depths of my heart. But before me I see, as does every Israeli prime minister, the security of all the State's citizens.
"The State of Israel is willing to pay a heavy price for the release of Shalit, but it cannot say 'at any price.' This is the truth, and I am saying it now. We will continue to make every effort… to bring Gilad home quickly. But this will be done while maintaining the security of Israel's citizens."
According to Liebman, many of the marchers told him that Netanyahu had failed to present an alternative. "His speech was missing the risk in not bringing Gilad back. Is a death sentence appropriate, in light of the risks presented by the prime minister. His statements mean killing Gilad and the value of not abandoning a soldier.
"The people in this march are not only protesting. I feel that they are yearning for something else, for the government to emerge from its fixation. All the things Netanyahu has said have already been said in the past."
Ela Hefetz, a friend of the Shalit family and one of the march's organizers, told Ynet following Netanyahu's speech: "We feel that the prime minister is detached from the people and the family. It's as if the entire public, all of the people of Israel, are with us, except for the prime minister."
Ahiya Raved contributed to this report