Gilad Schalit billboard website.
(photo credit: courtesy)
June 25 of this year will mark five years in captivity for Gilad Schalit, and one American is determined to make sure that this anniversary does not go unnoticed.
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Gal Sitty, a 28-year-old Los Angeles native, has started a campaign on epicstep.com to fund and erect a billboard near the Manhattan headquarters of the United Nations imploring leaders to take steps to free the captive soldier.
"In [the past] five years I've gone to grad school, had numerous jobs, spent many holidays with my family, had good times with friends and so forth," Sitty said to The Jerusalem Post
when asked about his motivations. "Meanwhile, Gilad Schalit and his family have had none of that. They have been suffering, living a nightmare."Epicstep
was founded earlier this
year by Lev Reys and brothers Gene and Eugene Vekslar. The site works as
a fundraising platform for creating billboards - users choose the issue
they feel compelled to promote and supporters log on and donate until
the final cost, which varies per billboard but for Sitty's campaign is
$10,000, is reached. Supporters' credit cards are not charged until the
fundraising goal is reached, so if the campaign to create a billboard
fails, no pledges are lost.
Sitty was born in Israel and raised in a Hebrew-speaking home. He is
quick to admit that this is an issue that is close to his heart. "The
recent Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement makes no mention of Gilad
Schalit. This means that Fatah and the Palestinian Authority are now
complicit in this crime," he said. "I think getting this billboard up
keeps the pressure on ... leaders of the world to not overlook this
Sitty, who holds a master's degree in public policy, still lives in Los
Angeles, where he works as a researcher for the Broad Foundation. He
selected New York City as the site for his billboard, however, because
he believes that no one needs to hear his message more than the
delegates at the United Nations.
"Soon the world's diplomats will be assembling at the UN to discuss
recognition of a Palestinian state and it is very important that we
remind them of Schalit so that the whole world does not become complicit in such crimes," he said. "If the UN endorses a Palestinian
state with Hamas in the government, then the UN indirectly endorses
crimes against humanity and puts many more at risk of being kidnapped by
terrorist organizations. We cannot allow this to happen."
What the actual impact of a placard bearing Schalit's face will be
remains to be seen. But Sitty is pragmatic when he describes his
motivations. "I know that I don't have the power to actually free him,"
he said of Schalit, "but by getting this billboard up I think it keeps
the pressure on the policy makers." And while Gilad will not know about
the campaign, Sitty is also eager to help two other important figures -
Noam and Aviva Schalit.
"I hope that many people, Israelis and non-Israelis, Jews and non-Jews,
from all over the world contribute to this campaign and show the Schalit
family that we haven't forgotten them, haven't forgotten their son, and
will never forget about their suffering," Sitty said. "We will continue
to stand beside them and do whatever we can to help them."Sitty's page for the Gilad Schalit billboard can be viewed at http://epicstep.com/campaign/231/free-gilad-shalit/.