Israel Brief July 21, 2013: Gilad Shalit accompanied children’s aliyah flight from New York



Gilad Shalit accompanying aliyah flight from N.Y.

Source: JTA, 7-21-13

A chartered aliyah flight bearing 106 children and accompanied by former captive soldier Gilad Shalit left New York for Israel….READ MORE

Israel Brief October 19, 2012: Hamas releases Gilad Shalit film



Hamas releases Gilad Shalit film

Source: JTA, 10-19-12

On the one-year anniversary of the release of Gilad Shalit, Hamas has released a film describing the Israeli soldier’s abduction in 2006….READ MORE

Israel Brief October 11, 2012: Gilad Shalit gives first interview in Israel since release



Shalit gives first interview in Israel since release

Source: JTA, 10-11-12

Gilad Shalit in his first interview in Israel since his release spoke of how he passed the time in captivity and his sense of great “relief” upon being set free….READ MORE

Israel Brief June 26, 2012: Gilad Shalit Receives Honorary NYC Welcome with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Marking 6th Anniversary of His Capture



Gilad Shalit Receives Honorary NYC Welcome

Gilad Shalit met with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, marking the sixth anniversary of his capture.
Source: Israel National News, 6-26-12

Gilad Shalit
Gilad Shalit
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Gilad Shalit met with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council speaker Christine C. Quinn at City Hall on Monday, marking the sixth anniversary of his capture….

“I just know that the government of Israel had to make a decision and they didn’t walk away from the decision, they made one, and that’s what governing is all about,” Bloomberg told reporters in Jerusalem at the time.

Gilad was passing through New York en route to the European soccer championships, which are being held in Poland and the Ukraine.

He didn’t say much during the five-minute ceremony, other than to mention that the NBA finals were “not bad,” and he smiled when Mayor Bloomberg said that he wished that a New York team had made the finals, The New York Times reported.

He also smiled when Mr. Bloomberg showed him a photo, on his iPad of the mayor with Shalit’s parents.

Together, Bloomberg and Quinn presented Mr. Shalit with a crystal apple, donated by Tiffany’s.

Israel Political Brief April 18, 2012: Gilad Shalit released from the military



Gilad Shalit released from the military

Source: JTA, 4-18-12

Former captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was released from the Israel Defense Forces.

Shalit was officially released, at the rank of sergeant-major, on Wednesday, six months after he was freed from Hamas captivity in Gaza.

He signed his release forms at his northern Israel home in Mitzpe Hila in lieu of going to an IDF induction center as part of an expedited administrative procedure, according to reports….READ MORE

Israel Brief April 5, 2012: Shalit family prepares for Passover with Gilad



Shalit family prepares for Passover with Gilad

Former IDF soldier’s family to truly celebrate meaning of freedom, as Gilad joins Passover seder for first time after over 5 years in Hamas captivity

Source: YNet News, 4-5-12

For the first time after six years, Gilad Shalit will sit down with his family for the traditional Passover seder on Friday. The Shalit family had previously refrained from celebrating the Jewish holiday as long as Gilad was still held captive by Hamas.

“This year we feel true freedom,” Noam Shalit, father of the former captive soldier, told Ynet on Thursday.

Related stories:

During Gilad’s time in captivity, Shalit campaign activists staged Passover seders outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s home in Jerusalem. In 2011, the Shalit family spent the seder in Jerusalem by chaining themselves to the PM’s Residence compound, while many Israeli citizens left an empty chair for Gilad at their seder table.

According to Noam Shalit, this year the festivities will truly be rejoiceful and include the extended family, as Gilad’s grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins will all join them for Passover.

“We’re preparing just like any other home in Israel,” he added.

שליט וההגדה המשטרתית. חג ראשון בשש שנים (צילום: באדיבות משטרת ישראל)

Zvi Shalit recieves special Haggadah (Photo: Israeli Police)

“It feels good. It’s the first time since Gilad was kidnapped when we can really celebrate the holiday. This time it truly feels like a feast of freedom.”

Despite many attempts made by rabbis and different organizations over the years, Gilad never received any of the Passover packages his family made for him during his time in captivity. “He only knew about the holiday from what he heard on the radio, but he never received matzah or wine to prepare a Passover seder,” Noam explained.

The Shalit family received a special Haggadah for the upcoming holiday, which includes photographs of Gilad from his IDF service, from the day he was released from Hamas captivity and pictures from the campaign to free him. The Haggadah was given to Gilad’s grandfather, Zvi Shalit, by Police Operations Division Chief Nissim Mor.

Israel Political Brief March 29, 2012: Gilad Shalit meets Benjamin Netanyahu, thanks him for release efforts



Gilad Shalit meets Netanyahu, thanks him for release efforts

Prime minister once again meets with Gilad Shalit, says he’s happy to see he’s coming back to life, gaining weight

Source: YNet News, 3-29-12

Gilad Shalit who was released five months ago after five and a half years in Hamas captivity met on Thursday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv. Gilad’s parents Noam and Aviva were also present at the meeting.

Shalit thanked Netanyahu for his release to which the prime minister responded with: “This year the holiday of liberation (Passover)gets a special meaning. From slavery to freedom; from darkness to light.

Related stories:

“You’re looking very well and it is evident that you are coming back to life. I’m happy that you are proving (your ability) to overcome all; that you went to see a basketball game and gained weight.”
אביבה, גלעד שליט ונתניהו. "הזמן עובר מהר" (צילום: משה מילנר, לע"מ)

Gilad and Aviva Shalit with Netanyahu (Photo: GPO)

The prime minister mentioned that throughout the period of Gilad’s captivity, his wife Sara told him again and again to think of the boy living in darkness.

Shalit confirmed that he had gained 6 kilograms since his release. “Now time goes by faster and I’m more active. For example, I have a more varied daily routine. I even came here on the train. Soon I’ll be discharged from the army.”

Gilad’s father Noam added that the family sought to meet the prime minister because they wanted to thank those responsible for the release of their son. Aviva Shalit gave the prime minister a book with a dedication: “To the Prime Minister Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, with respect and esteem…from Gilad and the Shalit family.

Aviva added: “It was important for me to come here today with Gilad so that you will see how ‘whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.’ We came to say thank you to you and your wife who was in constant contact with me.”

משפחת שליט וראש הממשלה בקריה (צילום: משה מילנר, לע"מ)

The Shalit family with Prime Minister Netanyahu (Photo: GPO)

Netanyahu and Shalit first met on the day of Gilad’s release at the Tel Nof base. When Shalit met Netanyahu and Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, he saluted. Netanyahu hugged him and told him: Welcome back to the State of Israel, it’s so good to have you home.”

In February Shalit visited France where he met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy who was among those who worked towards Gilad’s release.

Soon Sergeant First Class Shalit will be discharged, though an exact date has yet to be decided.

Shalit will continue to receive treatment from the Defense Ministry which will decide his status as a disabled IDF veteran. He will be entitled to further medical and psychological care and may receive a monthly allowance as a disabled IDF veteran. ….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief December 18, 2011: 550 Palestinians released in second stage of Gilad Shalit prisoner swap



Palestinians released in second stage of Shalit swap

Source: JTA, 12-18-11

Some 550 Palestinians were released from Israeli jails in the second stage of the prisoner swap for captured soldier Gilad Shalit.


The prisoners, including six women, were handed over by Israel on Sunday night. They left from the Ayalon Prison near Tel Aviv and were bused to four separate crossings in order to be released to the West Bank, Gaza Strip, eastern Jerusalem and Jordan.

Family members of the prisoners reportedly clashed with Israeli soldiers at the Beitunia crossing near Ramallah in the West Bank. As they waited for their relatives to go free, the family members threw rocks and firebombs at Israeli security services.

The list of prisoners to be released was posted four days ago on the Israel Prison Service’s website. None of the prisoners reportedly belongs to Hamas or Islamic Jihad, or was convicted of crimes involving the murder of Israelis, according to reports. Most are members of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah Party.

An appeal to delay the swap, filed by Israelis who had been victims of Palestinian attacks, was rejected Friday by Israel’s Supreme Court.

Some 477 Palestinian prisoners were released in mid-October in exchange for Shalit, who had spent more than five years held in Gaza by Hamas.

Israel Brief December 10, 2011: Gilad Shalit Releases Video Message to Volunteers: You played a crucial part in my release



Gilad Shalit to volunteers: You played a crucial part in my release

Source: YNet News, 12-10-11

Former Hamas-held soldier Gilad Shalit thanked the volunteers who fought to release him from Hamas’ captivity, as seen in a new video clip on Saturday.

“I know, without a doubt, that your adamant and ongoing battle for my freedom… played a crucial part in the decision to bring my back home. I am grateful to you all, and to each and everyone of separately, and will continue to be grateful to you for the rest of my life,” Shalit said.

Some 300 activists gathered in Kibbutz Shefayim Saturday evening to listen to the message from Shalit, who was released in October in the framework of a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas.

גלעד שליט לפעילים: אודה לכם כל ימי חיי

בסרטון שהוקלט לקראת פגישת מחזור של המטה לשחרור שליט, דיבר החייל החטוף לפעילים לראשונה מאז שובו. “כשהייתי בשבי שמעתי רבות על התגייסותכם למעני”, סיפר, “אני אסיר תודה לכולכם ולכל אחד לחוד”. צפו בשליט ובשידור החי מכנס הפעילים

הפעילים שעבדו במשך 1,941 ימים למען שחרורו פוגשים את גלעד שליט – על המסך. הפעילים הגיעו הערב (שבת) ל”פגישת המחזור” בחדר האוכל של קיבוץ שפיים, וברכה מגלעד שהוקלטה מראש הוקרנה בפניהם על המסך במקום. ynet העביר בשידור חי את כינוס הפעילים, ומפרסם את ברכתו של גלעד.

צילום: טל גורן ותמר פרוס

צפו בגלעד מודה לפעילים
“ערב טוב לכולם”, פנה גלעד שליט לפעילים בסרטון. “אני שמח שבאתם לכאן הערב ושיש לי הזדמנות לדבר אליכם ולהודות לכם על מה שעשיתם למעני בכל שנות השבי שלי. בזמן שהייתי בשבי שמעתי רבות על ההתגייסות שלכם למען שחרורי מהשבי, וכמובן גם לאחר חזרתי הביתה”.

גלעד הוסיף: “אני בטוח שעוד אשמע רבות על המסע הארוך והמתיש הזה שהתחלתם בקיץ 2006 והמשכתם מבלי להתייאש, מבלי לסגת, על אף הקשיים, העליות והירידות, התקוות והאכזבות, עד לסופו המיוחל ב-18 לאוקטובר. אני יודע ללא ספק שהמאבק הנחוש והמתמשך שלכם לשחרורי, כל אחד כפי יכולתו, ההתמדה והתמיכה במשפחתי לאורך הדרך הארוכה, היוו את אחד הגורמים המכריעים שתרמו להחלטה להחזיר אותי הביתה”.

אביבה שליט רוקדת עם הפעילים (צילום: אבי זולי   )
אביבה שליט רוקדת עם הפעילים (צילום: אבי זולי )

שליט חתם את דבריו באמירה: “אני רוצה להודות לכם הערב על כל אלה מעומק ליבי ולומר לכם שאני אסיר תודה לכולכם ולכל אחד בנפרד, ואמשיך להיות אסיר תודה לכם בכל ימי חיי. תודה גדולה לכולכם וערב טוב”.

300 מהפעילים למען שחרור שליט התכנסו בשפיים, והאב נועם שליט הגיע לברכם ונאם באירוע. “אין לכם מושג כמה אני נרגש לעמוד פה בנסיבות האלה, באירוע הזה”, אמר בהתרגשות על הבמה. “אין לכם מושג איזה פער קיים בין הנסיבות שבהן הכרנו ובהן נפגשנו בעבר לבין הנסיבות שאנו נפגשים בהן היום, וזה אומר את הכל”.

ליבמן: אני כותב ספר על המאבק

“הגענו הערב לנקודת הסיום של המסע הארוך הזה, נקודה שבה אפשר לברך על המוגמר”, הוסיף שליט האב. “אמנם לגלעד יש עדיין דרך ארוכה ללכת, אבל אתם – הפעילות והפעילים היקרים והמסורים – יכולים לומר היום ‘תם ונשלם'”.

גלעד שליט ליד ביתו אחרי שובו (צילום: AFP)

גלעד שליט ליד ביתו אחרי שובו (צילום: AFP)

לאחר שפירט את השתלשלות המאבק, הוסיף נועם שליט: “גלעד עדיין לא יודע על כל הפעילות הענפה והאינטנסיבית שנעשתה למענו, על הרבה אנשים טובים שפעלו ללא לאות במשך הרבה שנים. מן הסתם קשה לו להכיל כזאת כמות גדולה של אינפורמציה, אבל אני מניח שעם הזמן הוא ייחשף לכל הדברים שנעשו ולכל האנשים והגופים שפעלו וליוו אותנו בנאמנות ובעקשנות עד תום המאבק”.

שמשון ליבמן, ראש מטה המאבק לשחרור גלעד, בירך את הנוכחים. הוא הודה לפעילים על כך שפעלו למען החזרתו ותרמו להחזרת הערכים לתוך השיח הישראלי. “אתם הגיבורים של 2011”, אמר ליבמן, “מהדהדים דבריו של יצחק שדה, שאמר כי ‘גבורה אינה רק האומץ בקרב, אלא היא היפוכה של האנוכיות'”. ליבמן הודה גם לראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו, “על החלטתו האמיצה”. ל-ynet אמר כי החל

בכתיבת ספר על המאבק לשחרור שליט.

שי גרוס, אחד הפעילים המרכזיים לשחרור שליט ומי שבעצמו היה חטוף באנטבה, אמר בשיחה עם ynet כי זהו רגע של הקלה גדולה וסגירת מעגל גם עבורו. “ראיתי את גלעד לפני כשבועיים, הוא העלה במשקל ומצבו היה טוב בהרבה משציפיתי. ברור שייקח לו זמן, ובטח ובטח שקשה לו להיות במקום כמו זה עם הרבה אנשים. גם לי היה קשה בהתחלה, אבל אין לי ספק שהוא יהיה בסדר”.

Israel Brief December 4, 2011: Gilad Shalit went on hunger strike during captivity



Report: Shalit went on hunger strike during captivity

Source: JTA, 12-4-11

Former captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit launched a hunger strike that put his life in danger shortly before his release.

The hunger strike is what led in part to Hamas agreeing to an exchange, as the terrorist group feared Shalit would die and it would lose its main bargaining chip, Yediot Achronot reported Sunday. The daily Israeli newspaper cited an intelligence report on Shalit.

According to the report, shrapnel fired during the kidnapping entered Shalit’s body, barely missing vital organs, and the wounds eventually healed.

The report also said that Iran and Hamas gave misleading information to Israeli intelligence on Shalit’s whereabouts, hoping that an Israeli rescue force would enter a booby-trapped house in northern Gaza.

Shalit reportedly was guarded by the same four Hamas members throughout his captivity.

Israel Political Brief December 1, 2011: Gilad Shalit recovering well, his grandfather says



Shalit recovering well, his grandfather says

Source: JTA, 12-1-11

Gilad Shalit has recovered from the physical ordeal of his Gaza captivity, his grandfather said.

Tzvi Shalit met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday to update him on the rehabilitation of the Israeli soldier who was seized by Hamas-led gunmen in 2006 and kept incommunicado until his release as part of an Egyptian-brokered prisoner swap in October.

“Gilad has put on weight.  He really is back to normal,”  Netanyahu’s office quoted Shalit’s grandfather as telling the prime minister.

“You saved my grandson for me.  In the current situation in the region, it would have been impossible to return him.”

Israel Political Brief October 27, 2011: PM Benjamin Netanyahu Rides the Shalit Wave in Israel Polls



Netanyahu Rides the Shalit Wave

Source: Virtual Jerusalem 10-27-11

There is no doubt that the results of the latest poll by the Smith Institute for “Globes” indicate a honeymoon for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The month, which began with his speech to the UN to frustrate Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s attempt to gain UN recognition for a Palestinian state, peaked with the return of Gilad Shalit. Netanyahu is seeing his broadest public support since the elections: were elections held today, the Likud would win 33 seats.

Likud voters are even more pleased with Netanyahu: nearly 80% of them who voted Likud in 2009 would do so again. The right wing-haredi (ultra-orthodox) bloc has reached a peak of 70 Knesset seats.

Netanyahu can definitely enjoy the polls, but he should remember President Shimon Peres’ remark that polls are like perfume: good to smell, but not to drink. As time passes, the Shalit effect will wane, and Netanyahu is liable to weaken.

The Shalit effect widened the gap between the coalition and leader of the opposition, Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni.

gilad shalit

Kadima’s loss of support, which began with the start of the summer’s social protest, is continuing, and the party is down to 17 Knesset seats, were elections held today.

After Livni failed to exploit the protest’s momentum to win support, her remarks about the Shalit prisoner exchange worsened her standing in the polls. Her infuriating remarks about the media coverage of Shalit’s return as a reality show apparently hit Israelis in a sensitive spot. We have not even mentioned MK Shaul Mofaz who is breathing down her neck.

The public prefers to support the Shalit deal. The poll clearly shows that it remembers only the short-term profit side of the deal, and that it is avoiding an examination of its negative consequences. Anyone who argues, as did Livni and Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman, who honestly expressed his position, that there is long-term danger in the deal, loses Knesset seats.

In contrast, Labor’s new chairwoman MK Shelly Yacimovich, who supported the Shalit deal from the opposition benches, saw an immediate gain. Labor would win 20 Knesset were elections held today, becoming the second largest party in the house.

Netanyahu and the Likud are reaping a dividend from nurturing Yacimovich. Likud’s support for her has brought results – she is hitting Kadima and strengthening at its expense.

Which party would you vote for were elections held today?

Figures in brackets are numbers of seats won at the last election.

Kadima: 17 Knesset seats, down from 25 in August. (28)
Likud: 33 seats, up from 26 in August. (27)
Israel Beitenu: 14 seats, down from 15 in August. (15)
Labor: 20 seats, up from 11 in August. (13)
Shas: 10 seats, down from 12 in August. (11)
United Torah Judaism: 6 seats, unchanged. (5)
National Union: 4 seats, down from 5 in August. (4)
Habayit Hayehudi: 3 seats, unchanged. (3)
Meretz: 3 seats, down from 4 in August. (3)
Arab parties: 10 seats, down from 11 in August.(11)
Green Party 0, down from 2 in August. (-)

The survey was carried out among a representative sample of 500 people.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news –

Arie Hasit: Keeping the Jewish flame alive, even from afar


Arie Hasit: Keeping the Jewish flame alive, even from afar

Students who participate in programs in Israel return home impassioned and engaged; the challenge is for Jewish communities abroad to reach these excited, newly captivated students to maintain their level of interest in their Jewish roots and Israel.

Source: Haaretz, 10-27-11

Like most Israelis, I spent Tuesday, October 18 glued to the television. I listened to the radio incessantly and checked my phone for news updates every few minutes. I wanted to keep as up to date about Gilad Shalit’s return to Israel as possible, and I wanted to share it with as many people as I could.

But more than anything, I wanted to share my excitement about the news with my friends and loved ones abroad.

Of course, I was not the only one excited about this historical event – my Facebook newsfeed was loaded with status updates and shared articles on the prisoner exchange. However, I was particularly pleased to see how many of my former students and campers from Jewish programs that I have worked with over the years were eager to share the news as well.

Over the last number of years, I have been involved with different programs that give Jewish high school students the opportunity to come to Israel from anywhere from six weeks to four months. Once in Israel, these students undergo a transformative experience.

As Jewish educators in Israel we have unique opportunities that our North American counterparts lack. For many participants, being abroad without parental supervision is an adventure, and a new culture and language give the experience added appeal. More importantly, we have students excited to be in Israel not for the beach, but to become more intimately acquainted with their Jewish roots….

I am proud of my students who have made aliyah, as well as those who volunteer in underprivileged communities and even become educators themselves. These individuals have been inspired by their time in Israel and wish to impart their values on another generation.

Although knowing that I, along with other educators in Israel, have had a role in these achievements, it is up to the Jewish community in North America to give these teenagers and others like them the opportunity to stay involved with Israel even after their return home.

birthright - Erez Ozir - February 11 2011 Birthright participants at the organization’s ‘Mega Event’ in Jerusalem, February 2011.
Photo by: Erez Ozir

It is inspirational events like the return of Shalit that remind us of the lasting impression that positive experiences in Israel can have on Diaspora youth, and maintaining their impassioned relationship with Judaism and Israel for years to come.

Arie Hasit is an educator at Ramah Programs in Israel and is beginning the Israeli bet midrash program at the Schechter institute.


Israel Political Brief October 26, 2011: Gilad Shalit Was Not Checked by Red Cross Prior to Egypt TV Interview



Shalit Was Not Checked by Red Cross

Source: Virtual Jerusalem, JTA, 10-26-11

Red Cross doctors did not interview freed Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit before his notorious interview with Egyptian state television, contrary to what the interviewer said.

Investigative journalist Richard Behar writes in Forbes magazine Wednesday that a Red Cross spokesman reported thatgilad shalit released an International Committee of the Red Cross doctor did not examine Shalit before the Oct. 18 interview, as the interviewer, Egyptian journalist Shahira Amin, claimed in an e-mail to Behar and in an open letter published in The Jerusalem Post.

Amin defended her decision to interview Shalit, saying that the interview was conducted “AFTER [her caps] he had been released by Hamas and had a medical checkup by the Red Cross.”

The Red Cross disputes the claim.

“ICRC representatives met Mr. Shalit briefly after his transfer to the Egyptian authorities,” Red Cross spokesman Hicham Hassan told Behar. “However, he was not met by an IRC doctor as this has [sic] not been solicited.”

In a statement issued by the Red Cross on the day that Shalit was released, the ICRC said that it “helped ensure that the release operation ran smoothly. ICRC delegates interviewed each detainee in private prior to his or her release to verify that they accepted their release. The ICRC also facilitated the transportation of the detainees into the West Bank and from the Kerem Shalom crossing into the Gaza Strip.”

Shalit was seen in the interview breathing heavily and having trouble focusing.


Israel Political Brief October 25, 2011: Shalits Try to Adjust to New Normal



Shalits Try to Adjust to New Normal

Source: Virtual Jerusalem, JTA, 10-25-11

A week after Gilad Shalit returned to Israel after being held in captivity for more than five years in Gaza, things were getting back to normal at the Shalit family home — sort of.

The Israel Police said they would remove a barrier placed in front of the family’s house in Mitzpe Hila. The flowers, placards and other paraphernalia that littered the streets of the northern Israeli town following the celebration marking Shalit’s return have been cleaned up. Even the Shalit protest tent opposite the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem was taken down and carted away.

But with the 10-day moratorium on Israeli media intrusion in the Shalits’ town set to expire, and with Israelis still eager for images of the newly released soldier, it’s unlikely that Gilad, 25, will be able to have a normal life anytime soon.

On Monday, Israeli President Shimon Peres paid a visit to the Shalit family home, the first visit by an Israeli official. Almost immediately, photos and video of Peres and Gilad Shalit sitting side by side on the family couch landed on Israeli news websites and TV programs.

“You have no idea how thrilled I am to meet you here in your home alive, healthy and whole,” Peres said. “I came to express to you how proud I am, and how proud the entire nation is, by your ability to withstand extremely difficult conditions in captivity.”

Shalit thanked the president.peres and shalit

A day earlier, Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni, head of the Kadima Party, slammed the prisoner swap that brought Shalit home Oct. 18 in exchange for the release of 1,027 Arab prisoners, saying it has weakened Israel and strengthened Hamas.

Her criticism during interviews with the Israeli daily Yediot Achronot and Reshet Bet Radio did not sit well with lawmakers in the coalition or the opposition. They swiftly assailed Livni for waiting until Shalit was freed to voice her opposition to the deal, saying it showed a lack of leadership. Livni reportedly did not go public earlier with her dissent at the request of Noam Shalit, the soldier’s father.

The Israeli Cabinet approved the deal by a 26-3 vote.

In the few days since his release, Shalit has been captured by news photographers lying in wait for his next move. He was pictured taking a short walk with his mother — and several security guards — on the first morning following his release and riding a bicycle near his home. He also has played Ping-Pong. On the Simchat Torah holiday, he met with old friends, his father told reporters.

The Shalits are starting to learn that they have to maneuver to avoid the paparazzi. On Saturday, Shalit and his father left home early and took a side road to evade photographers on their way to a beach outing reportedly at Gilad’s request. But a photographer from Haaretz was camping on the beach with his family and snapped a photo of the soldier swimming near the shore as his father watched over him.

“In the last few years I have taken many photographs of the Shalit family surrounded by countless cameras,” photographer Yaron Kaminsky told his newspaper. “It was nice to just run into them like that, at the beach, during Gilad’s first Saturday since being freed from captivity.”

Kaminsky said he told Noam Shalit that he had taken the photo and received his tacit approval to publish it.

Meanwhile, supporters and curiosity seekers continue to flock to Mitzpe Hila for a glimpse of Gilad or simply to have their photo taken in front of the Shalit family home. Many are leaving flowers, drawings and packages containing candy and other gifts for the family.

Noam has provided reporters with several updates since his son returned. On Oct. 20, he said he does not believe Hamas’ claims that Gilad was not tortured while in captivity.

“Gilad went through harsh things, at least in the first period. It is correct that after that, after that first period, the way he was treated improved,” the elder Shalit said.

During the same news conference in front of the family home, Noam Shalit also told reporters that Gilad had an appetite for food but that he was having trouble sleeping through the night. On the day of his release, Gilad appeared wan and pale.

Noam added that his son had few requests and that he was “going with the flow.”


Israel Political Brief October 24, 2011: President Shimon Peres Visits Gilad Shalit



Peres Meets Shalit

Source: Virtual Jerusalem, 10-24-11

President Shimon Peres visited the Shalit residence at Mitzpe Hila in the Galilee Monday and met freed hostage Gilad Shalit and his parents, Aviva and Noam.

The Shalits waited for Peres at the entrance to their home and shook hands with him heartily. The president then hugged Gilad and said, “You have no idea how excited I am to meet you here in your home, alive, healthy and whole.”
He praised Shalit for his ability to survive the harsh experience of captivity and isolation.shalit peres

The president said that “the entire nation, from the tender ages to the veteran citizens, was mobilized to bring you back. It was a mobilization from depths of love and devotion and your homecoming is an amazing personal and national event.”
Peres told the Shalits that he is “glad that they were stubborn and did not let up for a moment.”

Gilad Shalit said, “Thank you for all of the support and assistance you gave to my family.” His father Noam said, “We appreciate and thank you for all that you did during all these years, we know that you were involved behind the scenes and we needed all the help we could get.”
Aviva Shalit said that her son was “a true hero.” She thanked Peres, but also thanked Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, “who took a courageous decision to bring Gilad back to life and to prove that mutual commitment are not just hollow words but a value and I believe that the entire nation of Israel thanks you for this.”


Israel Political Brief October 19, 2011: Gilad Shalit’s First Full Day of Freedom, Shalit, mother take a walk



PM Benjamin Netanyahu: I am pleased to see the pictures of Gilad walking with his mother outside the family home today. I am happy to see that Gilad is starting to get back into his routine

Shalit, mother take a walk

Source: JTA, 10-19-11

Gilad Shalit took a walk with his mother near their home.

Israel media reported that Shalit, dressed in a T-shirt, sunglasses and a baseball cap with an IDF insignia, took a short walk Wednesday morning.

Also Wednesday, military doctors visited Shalit at his home. Doctors will see the former captive in the coming days to get a complete picture of his condition.

Following tests Tuesday, Shalit was found to have shrapnel wounds from his capture in June 2006 and to be suffering from malnutrition.

Israel Political Brief October 18, 2011: Bereaved Families File Suit to Stop Terrorist Release



Bereaved Families File Suit to Stop Terrorist Release

Source: Virtual Jerusalem, 10-18-11
shalitRelatives of victims of terrorist attacks have filed an emergency lawsuit against the release of terrorists in exchange for kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. The suit was filed with the help of the Almagor organization for victims of terror.
The government has agreed to release more than 1,000 terrorists in exchange for Shalit, including murderers and those who took part in previous kidnappings of IDF soldiers. The release deal has been controversial, with some warning that it will cause a wave of terrorism, while others argue that the state has an obligation to return kidnapped soldiers.

The families of those murdered in the Sbarro spearheaded a suit against the release and have launched a campaign to remove the Sbarro murderess who drove the bomber to the site from the list of those to be released.. Fifteen people lost their lives in the suicide bombing. The number to call to join the campaign is 0524239870.

Among those filing suit is Hovev Nuriel, whose father Sasson was kidnapped and murdered by terrorists in 2005. The terrorists who murdered Sasson are to be released in the exchange.

Nuriel spoke to Arutz Sheva on Friday and explained that his primary concern is not for his own family, but for future victims.

“This [prisoner exchange] deal will lead to the loss of hundreds of lives, and will create more bereaved families and add to the pain and loss suffered by thousands of Israelis,” he said. “The deal sends the message that it is possible to deal with Israel through kidnapping and murder of Israeli citizens.”

“I know my father is not coming back,” he continued, “I am not speaking from a place of revenge, but rather, from solidarity. I am concerned for every citizen of Israel who could be hurt, whether by these same murderers or by other terrorists who get the message that they can continue to murder – because that is the message that the state and the government are sending.”

Another issue is justice, he said. “Where is the meaning of the judges’ verdict? Where is the justice in the state of Israel?” Murderers sentenced to life in prison are to be released after serving fewer than five years in prison, he noted.

Sayeed Ibrahim Mohammed Shalada, who stabbed Sasson Nuriel to death while the latter’s hands were tied, was sentenced to life in prison in 2007. In their verdict, the judges wrote, “The perpetrator took a person’s life with his own hands, acting calmly and with great cruelty. His actions force us to put him behind bars for the rest of his life.”


Israel Political Brief October 18, 2011: US, Obama Administration Criticizing Gilad Shalit Prisoner Swap Deal



US Now Criticizing Shalit Deal

Source: Virtual Jerusalem, 10-18-11

US officials criticized Tuesday evening the deal brokered for the freedom of Gilad Shalit, which set hundreds of terrorists, including those who had murdered Israelis, free.

The criticism came after it became clear that the released terrorists included those who had murdered Jews with US citizenship.

Earlier on Tuesday, US President Barak Obama had, despite his own nation’s strict policy of not negotiating with terrorists for the release of its citizens, said he was pleased with the deal that set Shalit was free.

Obama also expressed the hope Israel and officials in Ramallah would take the steps necessary to return to the negotiating table.

Previously, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton also praised Israel for negotiating with terrorists to secure Shalit’s release.

French President Sarkozy welcomed the release of Gilad Shalit, saying France had breathed a sigh of relief. Visiting the port city of Nice, Sarkozy’s opined Shalit’s French citizenship helped keep him alive. He added that Gilad will visit France soon.

Britain’s foreign secretary William Hague also welcomed the release of Gilad Shalit, and like Obama, added he hoped the terrorists-for-Shalit deal would provide positive momentum allowing the resumption of peace talks.

It is unclear why the Shalit deal would provide any such momentum. Israel’s deal to release 1,027 security prisoners, some 450 convicted on terrorism charges, for Shalit was made with the Hamas terror organization in Gaza and not Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah.

Hamas had vowed never to negotiate with Israel.


Israel Political Brief Full Text Interview October 18, 2011: Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren Discusses with NPR Gilad Shalit Prisoner Swap



Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren Discusses with NPR Gilad Shalit Prisoner Swap

Five years after he was captured by Hamas militants in Gaza in a cross-border raid, Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was returned to his home country. Michael Oren, Israeli ambassador to the U.S., talks with Robert Siegel about the deal that will free more than one thousand Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails in exchange for Shalit’s release Tuesday.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host: Joining us in the studio is Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the United States. Mr. Ambassador, welcome once again.

MICHAEL OREN: Always good to be here, Robert.

SIEGEL: I want to ask you first about Israel’s dealings with Hamas over the prisoner swap. The Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar told Israeli army radio the other day that Palestinian President Abbas, a negotiator with Israel for a million years and hasn’t achieved a deal like this one. Has this agreement, in effect, elevated the standing of Hamas among Palestinians and in the world community at large?

OREN: Well, listen, there was a poll published just today by a Palestinian research center in Ramallah that shows that Hamas is imploding in terms of its political support, not only in the West Bank, but in Gaza itself. The economic situation in Gaza is miserable, for want of a better word, and Palestinians are looking from Gaza at the West Bank where there’s extraordinary economic growth, where hundreds of checkpoints have been removed and they’re asking their leadership, how come this isn’t happening here.

So, maybe they’ll receive a blip of support from the release of these prisoners today. But in the long run, their constituents are going to still be asking the hard questions. Why don’t we have the same future that Palestinians on the West Bank have?

SIEGEL: The head of the Israeli security agency, the Shin Bet, was quoted as saying in defense of this agreement, Hamas had to show some flexibility as we did. Was the description of a balanced negotiation, albeit through Egyptian mediators, do you and other Israelis come away from this with any hope for any more extensive negotiations with Hamas?

OREN: With Hamas? No. I mean, Hamas still is committed to Israel’s destruction. If you read its covenant, it’s committed not only to the annihilation of Israel, but to the obliteration of the Jews worldwide. It’s a genocidal covenant. And Hamas does not meet the criterion established by the quartet for joining negotiations. But what today’s events do prove is that the Israeli government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is capable of making very hard, very painful decisions.

And if I were a Palestinian leader on the West Bank, I’d be looking at this government and saying, this is government that can deliver. This is a government that can make the hard choices and reach an historic peace with us.

SIEGEL: But if I were a Palestinian not in the government, wouldn’t I look at this and say, well, these Hamas people, they’ve been trying to isolate them for years. But in the clutch, when it came down to getting one Israeli soldier home, the Israelis delivered 1,100 prisoners to them.

OREN: Oh, I’d actually flip that around and say, look, Hamas, in order to get – in exchange for one Israeli prisoner, they received 1,027 Palestinian prisoners. I’d be looking at the great asymmetry of that and saying, what’s wrong with this picture. Wouldn’t it be better, instead of exchanging a soldier who was kidnapped on Israeli soil for people who are basically mass murderers, is that the best way of ensuring the future for my children and my grandchildren?

SIEGEL: Well, what would you say to those Israelis who were critical of this swap, who said, indeed, the people being freed include, say, the young woman who masterminded the bombing of the pizzeria in Jerusalem that claimed the lives of women and children, she’s out. She’s not repentant. She could be planning another plot in a couple years.

OREN: Well, I think that there’s a valid argument there. And as I say, we share in the joy of the Shalit family. We also partake in the pain of those who are victims of these terrorists. And I’m speaking as a – personal, as an Israeli, not just as the ambassador. I have three children who have been in the army, one who’s still serving. But my family has also been – has also suffered the loss of a very close family member in a bus bombing in Jerusalem. My eldest son was shot trying to apprehend one of these Hamas leaders. He’s fine today, but we bear these scars. So we understand the pain and we understand the risks.

But at the end of the day, Robert, Israel is a democracy that has a citizens army. And when we send our sons and our daughters off to defend our country, they have to know that if they fall captive or, God forbid, anything worse happens to them, that the state will do everything in their power to get them back. And that is the source of our strength.

SIEGEL: But Ambassador Oren, does the deal with Hamas make it more difficult for Israel to fault those who would negotiate with people they describe as terrorists? That is, Israel regards Hamas as terrorist. You had to deal with them. If you wanted Gilad Shalit back, you had to negotiate in some way with them. You did. Shouldn’t other countries do the same?

OREN: I’m not splitting hairs here by saying that we didn’t negotiate. We negotiated through the Egyptians and the Germans and we negotiated about a prisoner exchange. We didn’t negotiate peace. We didn’t negotiate territory for peace. It’s not about that because Hamas is not interested in peace. It’s about comparing lists and seeing, you know, which lists were palatable to us and which ones that Hamas could accept.

Eventually, we reached a deal. It’s a better deal that we reached today than we could’ve reached at any time in the last five years. And with the great changes sweeping the Arab world, we thought we had an opportunity here that might not exist in the coming months.

SIEGEL: Ambassador Oren, thank you very much for talking with us.

OREN: No problem.

SIEGEL: That’s Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States. And later in the program, you can hear an interview with a representative of the group on the other side of that prisoner exchange, Hamas.

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