VIDEO - Yoel Shalit, the brother of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, interrupted the traditional torch lighting ceremony on Jerusalem's Mount Herzl on Monday evening, calling for the release of his brother.
Yoel, along with his girlfriend and several other activists walked onto the ceremony grounds and waved signs reading "Gilad is still alive." They were escorted out by security officers.
After being escorted out of the ceremony by security officers, Yoel Shalit told Ynet: "I'm here because after five years its time to return Gilad who is in a pit in Gaza right now, and doesn’t see the light of day. He can’t shout and that's why I'm here to shout for him."
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni approached Yoel and his girlfriend Yaara Vinkler, and asked them to return to the ceremony in order to respect the audience and the people of Israel who support them. Shalit and Vinkler turned down Livni's request and left the ceremony.
"This is a ceremony marking mutual guarantee, but all that is left are words. We are done sitting in these ceremonies and listening to politicians who get applause on our expense. We demand action and from now on we are pulling no punches in the struggle to release Gilad," said Vinkler.
"We are shouting for Gilad particularly on this stage. We did not expect to be removed forcefully, but we are not mad at the security officers – we are mad at the government for forsaking Gilad," added Shalit.
Noam Shalit: We may step up protest
The kidnapped soldier's father, Noam Shalit, told Ynet on Monday night that the family was considering stepping up its protest as "nothing is being done about Gilad".
Asked whether he knew what his son was planning to do during the torch-lighting ceremony, Shalit said, "Yaara and Yoel don't need our approval. It was a spontaneous act of protest."
Shalit told Ynet earlier: "We are not celebrating Independence Day, we are staying in the tent until Gilad is released, in order to prevent another memorial day."
Some 50 activists for the campaign to release Gilad waved flags outside the ceremony, reading "We want mutual guarantee all year round – not only in ceremonies."
Shalit and girfriend on stage (Photo: Noam Moskowitz)
Magen Dahari, a member of the campaign, said: "We are here today to remind the State and decision makers that we long for mutual guarantee that will bring our leaders to make a decision to return Gilad now. On Independence Day we demand the independence of Gilad," he said.
"A day will come when animosity will pass and we will live like neighbors among neighbors.
"A day will come when we will know that they not only defended our lives, but also paved the way to the peace that will come. They are war heroes and peace bearers at once.
:We embrace the IDF, our beloved army. We will not rest until all our kidnapped and missing soldiers return home. We will not rest until Gilad Shalit is among us safe and sound."
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