It was not how they wanted to leave the capital. One thousand days after he was taken captive, Gilad Shalit’s family packed up the protest tent erected outside the home of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Yerushalayim.
But though they return to their home empty handed, Noam and Aviva Shalit vowed the fight for their son’s freedom was far from over. Addressing the hundreds that gathered for the low key ceremony marking the grave milestone, he said: “It is not over my dear Gilad. We, along with all of you, will keep going until you come home.”He called on the government to do everything possible in its remaining two weeks in office to secure Gilad’s release.
“It’s been a thousand days and nights since you were kidnapped by Hamas to Gaza, both we and you have been living in a nightmare, uncertain about your fate. A thousand days now that the State of Israel and its leaders, who sent you on your mission, have failed to find any solution that would bring you home, we are not even close.
“We came here exactly two weeks ago to demand of the prime minister to carry out the necessary moves to bring Gilad home without delay, before the end of your term, Ehud Olmert. The Israeli government you lead, as you like to say, sent Gilad on a mission he didn’t come back from, and it is your duty to bring him back to the IDF, to his home, and to his family.
“We say to the prime minister today – you have two more weeks to act. To act with determination and creativity and to employ everything at Israel’s disposal to save Gilad before it is too late.”
Now addressing Olmert directly, Shalit continued: “Don’t put together committees of scholarly professors and don’t give us excuses about why it can’t be done, you have had almost three years to do that when we weren’t sitting here in the tent.
“Gilad should not have to bear the weight of Israel’s defense and strategic problems alone, on his narrow back, as he has for one thousand days now.”
Novelist Meir Shalev took the stage prior to Shalit. “It has also been a thousand days for the prime minister,” he said, “a thousand days of empty promises and contradictory statements and lost time. He headed out to war in the blink of an eye but when it comes to Gilad Shalit he has all the time in the world.
“The only thing the prime minister has proven agile or determined about is pointing the blame at Gilad Shalit’s family. There are red lines we do not cross, he recently said, but his red lines have nothing to do with principles, there’s about haggling over a few more prisoners.
“Tell us, prime minister, how many prisoners is Gilad Shalit’s life worth? And how many prisoners are his soul and future worth? How many prisoners is your commitment to a combat soldier who you went to carry out his duty worth?
“We do not know where Gilad Shalit is, or what condition he is in, and he does not know what is happening here. But when he comes back he will know and see everything. He will see that in the country that sent him politicians are investigated by the police and taken to court but that its red lines exist only for him. He will see that in the country that sent him there is injustice and evil, but red lines that exist only for him. He will see that the country that sent him is infected with ignorance and corruption and violence but that has no red lines, only for him. The government put Gilad Shalit behind the only red line that it has.”
Those who attended the event waved yellow luminescent stick lights, meant to evoke the internationally recognized color for prisoners of war.
On Friday family and friends gathered for a brief ceremony to change the digits on the sign counting the days since Gilad was taken captive.
Noam Shalit watched on in silence as the numbers were changed, at one point reaching out to touch the sign. “The number speaks for itself,” he said, “I think all of Israel should stop for a minute and think of Gilad.”