In our synagogue in Portland, Congregation Shaarey Tphiloh, we say a prayer for Gilad Shalit every Friday night, before we usher in the holy Sabbath day of peace and rest.

Gilad Shalit is an Israeli soldier who was kidnapped by terrorists from the Gaza Strip on June 25, 2006.

Since his capture, Hamas, the terrorist organization in charge of the Gaza Strip, has not allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit Gilad Shalit.

In fact, far worse has taken place. Hamas has released cruel and threatening propaganda to the public in Israel. Videos threaten that Gilad’s fate will be the same as that of another Israeli soldier who has disappeared without a trace after the Hezbollah terrorist organization kidnapped him.

Gilad’s parents suffer as they see videos of their frail son wasting away in captivity. I can’t imagine the pain they feel, but I sympathize with their suffering.

Does the world care about the fate of Gilad Shalit?

When the terrorists of Hamas fired thousands of projectiles at Israel in 2009, Israel was forced to defend itself. It went to war in Gaza and put a clamp on the terrorist fire.

I was in southern Israel in 2009 when that war was taking place. I went to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba to visit Israeli soldiers, children who were wounded by the fighting.

Soroka Hospital is the largest hospital in southern Israel with 13,000 babies born there each year. During my visit to the hospital, the air raid siren sounded and we had to evacuate to a bomb shelter in the hospital. Once again, Hamas was firing from Gaza with the aim of hitting the Soroka Hospital.

Did the world care about Hamas fire on Israeli hospitals and city centers?

The U.N.-appointed Goldstone Commission blamed both Hamas and Israel for committing war crimes in the fight. Israel was responding to fire on civilian centers with measured fire on terrorists in Gaza who were hiding behind civilians, but the U.N. appointed Goldstone Commission concluded that both parties were guilty.

I could not believe my ears when I heard the conclusions of this report. I was there when the missiles were being fired at the Israeli population. I talked with Israeli soldiers who had fought in Gaza, and who spoke of the care that they took in attempting to avoid human casualties as they weeded out terrorists hiding in the Gaza population.

Their goal was self-defense as they sought only to stop missiles from being fired at Israel. Still, the conclusion of the U.N. investigative body was that Israel was guilty when it fought the war against the Gaza terrorists.

The war was fought and Israel left Gaza. The goal of Israel now is to prevent terrorists in Gaza from rearming with new weapons that will be used to attack Israel. A blockade by Israel is in place to prevent military-use material from reaching Hamas, a governing group that is sworn to Israel’s destruction.

Since the blockade affects the lives of the civilian population of Gaza in a negative way, a group of “peace activists,” took matters into their own hands and went to run the blockade with a flotilla of ships. Israel asked to inspect the goods and then transport them overland to Gaza. The activists refused. They wanted to pierce the blockade, flouting Israel’s security concerns and legitimate need to inspect the material on the ships.

When Israel sent commandos to stop the ships, those on one ship, the MV Mavi Marmara, attacked the Israelis.

YouTube Videos released by the Israeli Defense Forces show Israeli commandos being beaten with poles and chairs and being hurled overboard. Gunshots were fired, a fire bomb was tossed. In the end, sadly, life was lost on the boat and people were wounded.

Israel stopped the ships from reaching Gaza, but has lost the war of world public opinion, because Israel looks like an aggressor.

As all this takes place, somewhere in a dark cellar, Gilad Shalit continues to wither away. Held in captivity, hidden from his family and the Red Cross, he is a living victim of the fighting that continues. His hopes and his family’s hopes for life become darker and darker.

Gilad Shalit is only one person, and many more thousands of people are suffering both in Israel and in Gaza. The Gazans wish for lives of dignity, the Israelis wish for lives free of anxiety without the threat of terrorism and destruction.

Still, his single story of captivity has meaning. I feel his pain and the pain of his family.

God willing, he will be free one day, and I will tell him that we prayed for him, as well as for a peace that will bring security to Israel and an end to suffering across the region.

 

– Special to The Press Herald