October 13, 2011Dear Friend of Israel,
Israel is awaiting with anticipation the return of Gilad Shalit, the IDF soldier held captive by Hamas terrorists for over five years. On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu announced that a deal had been finalized with Hamas for Shalit’s return, and though no date for that release has yet been announced, it looks like this time he will really be coming home.
Israelis are famous for their boisterous public debates on a host of topics. But for years they have been united in their concern for this young man who was kidnapped and held under such cruel conditions. He was allowed virtually no contact with the outside world. In clear violation of international law, his captors never allowed him even one visit by the International Red Cross. The United Nations, which criticizes Israel at every turn, never saw fit to address Shalit’s plight. Israel and her friends never forgot him though — and now, with his release imminent, his homecoming seems like nothing short of a miracle, a gift from God.
Shalit’s freedom comes at a painful cost — a price exacted by Hamas, which outrageously demanded the release of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners to ensure Shalit’s release. Among these prisoners are many terrorists with the blood of innocent Israeli men, women, and children on their hands. Certainly, there are many moral and ethical questions — and strategic risks — associated with this prisoner swap.
Gilad’s parents, too, are understandably anxious about how five years of being held captive by terrorists has affected his psychological and physical health. Aviva Shalit, Gilad’s mother, expressed her concern as only a parent can. “This joy is mixed with a great deal of fear; it is obvious that he won’t be the same boy we sent off,” she said. “No matter what we do when we get home, the most important thing is that Gilad comes back.”
Whatever our fears and apprehensions, it is a time to be thankful. And so we say, welcome home Gilad Shalit! The entire nation of Israel, and Israel’s friends everywhere, celebrate your return. May the rest of your life and the lives of your loved ones be as blessed with joy and happiness as the past five years have been fraught with struggle and sorrow. On this momentous occasion, may we all turn toward God in gratitude, remembering the words of the Psalmist, “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Psalm 107:1).
With prayers for shalom, peace,