Since June 25, 2006 the Shalit family has been waiting for kidnapped soldier Gilad to return home. Four and half years have gone by, exactly 1,700 days, but Gilad has yet to come back. The Shalits held a rally outside the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem Saturday night to mark the number of days that have elapsed since his abduction, hoping that by day 1,800 their protest tent will longer be needed and Gilad no longer kept by Hamas.
Despite recent Palestinian reports regarding a breakthrough in negotiations to release the Gilad, the soldier's parents and supporters have a hard time showing signs of optimism. For almost five years now Noam and Aviva Shalit have met disappointment after disappointment.
Agriculture Minister Orit Noked, former Shin Bet Director Carmi Gillon, writer Meir Shalev and others attended the rally and showed their support.
Aviva Shalit said: "We stand here once more tonight, in front of the prime minister's home, after 1,700 days in which Gilad is in captivity, just like we did 100 days ago, 200 days ago and 700 days ago - crying out his muted cry from his dark Gaza hole, his cry to the prime minister who is roofed here in his home. We cry and shout but to no response.
Aviva Shalit at assembly (Photo: Avi Peretz)
"Days of non-stop, indescribable anguish, of longing for all that he left behind forever, days of anticipation and longing for freedom, nature, love and sunlight. Things we all take for granted. We hope and wish that those who sent him out on the mission will bring him back home already," she cried out and added: "Bring Gilad home before it's too late. I want my son back. We all want Gilad home."
Aviva called addressed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: "Bring Gilad home before it's too late. I want my son back, we all want Gilad home. These have been 1,700 days of ongoing failure, 1,700 days of disappointments. We call on Netanyahu – no more excuses, no more explanations."
Despite harsh criticism, Agriculture Minister Orit Noked was also present at the rally. "All those who care here have to continue to cry out and do the best they can to remind the public that Gilad is still not here. To remind that many ministers, myself included, are willing to pay the heavy price of freeing terrorists with blood on their hands so as to fulfill our humane, national and moral obligation to this soldier we sent out to battle."
Crying for Gilad in front of PM home (Photo: Avi Peretz)
Noked added that "Gilad must not turn into Ron Arad. With each day that passes this horrible possibility becomes more real. We must remember that the majority of those living here expect the decision makers to act bravely and resolutely to bring Gilad home alive and well."
Shalit's parents, who have been living at the protest tent for the past seven months, continue to believe that sitting outside the key decision maker's home will help bring Gilad home.
"They believe that they can't stop because they don’t have the privilege of giving up. They only thing they can do is be ashamed that after 1,700 days in Hamas captivity – Gilad has yet to be returned," said Shalit campaign head Shimshon Libman.
Former Shin Bet Director Carmi Gillon criticized the government on the issue: "I'll clarify my professional opinion just to remove any doubt: The State of Israel is able today, just like in the past, to deal with the release of terrorists. God help us if we don't."
Referring to the possibility of a prisoner exchange deal with Hamas Gillon said: "Would our top guys, who enjoy an unprecedented collaboration with the Palestinian Authority, not be able to handle the threat of the terrorists, some of them very old, out in the field? Is justice just about punishing the terrorist? Is there no justice in returning our soldier back to his family?"
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