Yet the solidarity, joy and excitement were infringed by the image of Gilad Shalit, who was there, present but missing. “This is precisely how he should have returned to his parents, to his siblings, to us, and mostly to his life,” we were thinking. “Why were the Chileans able to rescue their men, yet we could not come up with the creative solution for getting a man out of a pit? How is it that for four years and four months we know almost nothing about Gilad?? Those were the vexing, somewhat naïve thoughts that came up and refused to let go.
After all, he is so close to us; a mere 200 kilometers (roughly 120 miles) from his home in northern Israel. Where is his capsule? Yet there is no answer. Only great yearning and a dream, knowing that we too want to see Gilad returning to us, just like Florencio, Mario and the other rescued miners came back.
At once, the men trapped deep underground became international heroes. The world held its breath during their rescue, and the concern for their wellbeing became a universal common denominator. Did the fact that we were dealing with 33 poor miners in Chile enhance the sense of drama, while the fate of one armored corps soldier held by Hamas in Gaza does not prompt the world to hold its breath? Apparently this is the case.
Gilad Shalit will not become a Chilean-style hero and the world won’t hold its breath, just like it did not act with all its power and held its breath for the sake of Shalit’s release in the past four years. But who needs heroes, or symbols, or emotional Hollywood movies about men involuntarily trapped in a mine? All we want is to bring back one soldier whose life crashed when he was 20, as he shifted from being a free man in his country to being a captive at the hands of his enemies.
Words backed by actions
Yet we can envy the Chileans: Because of the quick deployment, because of the impressive technological solution, and mostly because of the solidarity and enlistment for the cause of the miners. The day after the mine collapsed, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera promised his people that he will do everything possible in order to find the miners alive and rescue them. Yet he did not make do with words: He immediately dispatched a rescue team to the site.
On Wednesday, when the rescue mission succeeded, Benjamin Netanyahu told Chile’s president that the people in Israel are sending their well-wishes to the Chilean people and added that we are all moved by the human act of saving civilians trapped deep underground. Yet did Netanyahu see before him Gilad’s image, dress in army fatigue, when he wrote the Chilean president? Did he hear Gilad’s cries for help? Did he think about Aviva and Noam Shalit?
A 69-day stay deep underground exacts a physical and mental price, and the miners as well as their families know this well. Gilad’s parents do not dare think what kind of kid will return to them when he’s released. They just want to see him alive. The words “we shall do everything,” which were uttered by the Chilean president, have faded around here after being used so much. In respect to Gilad, it is no longer clear what we mean by action.
At this time, no miracle awaits Gilad on the horizon and no ray of light illuminates the darkness around him; we can assume he is the only person in the world who knows nothing about the miracle in the Chilean desert.
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