Angeleno launches drive for Schalit billboard near UN

Gal Sitty, 28, campaigns to reach United Nations policy makers with the story of Gilad Schalit; sets fundraising goal of $10,000 for placard.

By DEBRA KAMIN
May 8, 2011 19:10
3 minute read.
The website of epic step

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.

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.

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"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 human tragedy."

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/.










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