A new battlefield

Noam Shalit, a year after his son's return, puts his tenacity and determination into politics.

By ROBERT SLATER
November 6, 2012 13:36
2 minute read.
Noam Shalit 521

Noam Shalit 521. (photo credit: BAZ RATNER)

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A two-story cottage in a tiny village on an unnamed street in northern Israel seems eerily quiet and largely unrecognizable. Only the family’s name on a plaque outside the house confirms that this modest dwelling is indeed the home of a young man whose face for five years adorned car bumpers, flags and the front pages of newspapers in Israel and abroad. The media has long decamped, no longer searching for interviews or small morsels of news. Gawkers can no longer reach the house, thanks to a heavy metal gate that bars their entry to the community.

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The tiny village of Mitzpe Hila (population: 600) seems unremarkable other than the spectacular view of the Lebanese mountains. Yet, it was a just a year ago, on October 18, that 25-year-old Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit returned home here after 64 months of captivity by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Four days before the first anniversary of his son’s homecoming, 58-year-old Noam Shalit greets a visitor for a rare interview. The Shalit family has kept mainly mum about the solder’s captivity, but Noam, an engineer by training, is running in the Knesset elections in January on the Labor Party ticket, and has decided this interview may help his campaign.

With one of the more recognizable faces in Israel with – and with many considering him, along with his son, true national heroes – Noam's entry into the Knesset on the Labor list seems assured. It appears that all he needs to do is show up for a few TV interviews and rallies, and then wait for Labor primaries so party members may give him their overwhelming approval. But he takes nothing for granted; his chances will be largely based on how high he is placed on the Labor ticket.

Politically inexperienced, Noam still ponders whether he needs to raise money and how much, how many rallies he should organize for himself, and, most importantly, whether Labor voters will in fact think him worthy of being a Knesset member. He has decided that he will “not go crazy” by running around the countryside seeking votes; rather he will adopt a “minimalist” campaign.

And his campaign will be clean. “I don’t plan to attack others and say that I am the best of everyone,” he asserts to The Jerusalem Report. Nor will he involve his son in his political efforts. “I won’t bring Gilad to my rallies, I will not say that Gilad thinks this way or that.” If however Gilad wishes to participate, Noam will welcome his presence at his side.

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