A Social Act of Courage and Hope
At Passover night dinner, my family prayed for the return of kidnapped soldier Gil’ad Shalit to Israel. One of the family members suggested that a government that forgets its own sons is not a legitimate government. I was pretty surprised, because when the conversation revolves around the social issues of this welfare state, I don’t tend to hear the desperation quite that clearly. But when it comes to the issue of Gil’ad Shalit, the taboo around criticizing Israel has been somehow lifted, and a big outcry is heard, following by a sense of futility.
1780 days have passed and Gil’ad is still held captive. The protest has seemingly become the uniting glue of the citizens of Israel, defining contemporary ‘Israeliness’ – the wish to save the young soldier from the hands of the Hamas. But over time, this sticky barrier of false pretense was deemed an empty promise. The true wish of Shalit’s family and their supporters to return their son back to Israel was faced with the lies, the recklessness, and the emptiness of those in power.
Politics betrayed the nation, and the army betrayed its soldier. Suddenly it was difficult to settle the return of the captive deal at the price Hamas set, of thousands of Palestinian political prisoners (some kidnapped by Israel. Most of them underaged, and some who haven’t even set a trial in “democratic” Israel). Although it was a great opportunity for PM Binyamin Netanyahu, he declined.
The Heavy Regional Price
Time does its thing, and the Shalit family had understood that the government and general are in effect lying to her. They are standing aside, not turning their act of protest into protesting against the country and its values. On the contrary. The huge effect of the demand for the return of Gil’ad Shalit is a direct result of the immense pain the family had outwardly shown, moving away from any radical position on the issue.
Despite the common perception, that the left had forgotten about Shalit, human rights organizations called out to look after Gil’ad’s life and health. It was actually the Israeli government who decided to punish the nation by not returning Shalit, and by not recognizing Hamas itself, as well as their mutual agreement. The people of Gaza also paid a heavy price during operation Cast Lead (which turned out to be a failed and superfluous operation). Also, Raphiah Crossing was closed for movement in both directions, as well as for gods, products and commodities.
The Emperor’s New Clothes
But not all shows go according to the script. And Yoel Shait and his girlfriend Ya’ara refused to look at the naked emperor. During the memorial Torch lighting ceremony at Hertzel Mount in Jerusalem. Yoel carried big placards demanding to release his brother. Reuven Rivlin, the Chairmen of the House of Parliament (the Knesset) who gave a speech in which he mentioned Shalit didn’t go over to Yoel to help him. Instead dozens of security guards ran over and carried both of them out of the ceremony. Applause were heard from the audience. Yoel’s cry was to the Prime Minister Netanyahu: “Bibi, the people decided mutual guarantee. Follow you promise”. The PM is the right address, and if the nation was more daring, it could have brought his collapse on the grounds of the dangerous game he is playing with the soldier’s life. And indeed, the mutual guarantee mentioned, is no longer part of Netanyahu’s current vision. On the Contrary. He privatizes every social and public authority, promotes hatred and animosity between weakened parts of our society, and opposes every negotiation process that can bring about a progress towards a peace agreement.
But here, in Yoel and his girlfriend’s public protest we come across just one of the many of Netanyahu’s attributes which enrages our nation.
Yoel Shalit said he didn’t want to be a bereaved brother, like his father, and in his words expressed his real wish to see his brother alive. At the moment we are living in death, since the life offered by our government is a falsified existence. But Yoel Shalit begged to bring his brother back at any price. The Israeli government failed both in the unnecessary wars that, supposedly, began in the name of freeing Shalit and other captive soldiers, as well as in its negotiations process with the Palestinians. Today we know that Israel can bring Gil’ad Shalit back, but doesn’t want to. Hopefully this will change towards the next election campaign.
The cry Gil’ad is still alive!” still reverberates inside all those who know there is another life beyond the lies of our government. That it is possible to bring back solidarity, unity and love between the various segments of our nation and recreate a different country. A country that looks after its poor, whose citizens don’t have a price tag. The attempt to carry Yoel out forcefully is a pathetic and ridiculous one, of a though-controling dictatorship who is trying to silence our souls. And there is nothing more real that finish with Yoel’s own words: “I don’t want to be a bereaved brother like my father. We are yelling for Gil’ad. Gil’ad can’t scream, I can scream for him, and that’s what I did. I will do anything for him”.
Written by Mati Shemoelof
Translated by: Sivan Gabrielovich