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Country observes five minutes of silence for Schalit
By MELANIE LIDMAN AND JPOST.COM STAFF
15/03/2011
Traffic jams as cars stop on Tel Aviv highway; Netanyahu: Only small portion of what we do to bring about Gilad's release is known to public.
 
At 11:00 AM on Tuesday morning, people throughout the country stopped, observing five minutes of silence in honor of Gilad Schalit.

Rather than the customary one minute of silence, Ofer Ben Tal, one of the organizers for the campaign to free Gilad Schalit, asked the public to stop for five full minutes, one minute for the nearly five years Schalit has been held in captivity by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

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Traffic jams were observed throughout Tel Aviv, as cars stopped in the streets in Schalit's honor.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said to mark the day that "we are constantly working for [his] Schalit's release, and only a small portion of what we do is known to the public."

"It is difficult to imagine what Hamas terrorists would do if they were released," the prime minister added.

"For the past five years, the entire nation has been united in its hearts in the hope that Gilad Schalit will be here with us, healthy and whole," President Shimon Peres said at Tuesday's Negev Conference in Eilat.

"Schalit family, we feel like a part of your family. Gilad is a soldier in the IDF, and the entire country will not rest until he comes home," he added. "The negotiations for his release are difficult and  painful. We are fighting an organization that has no law and no heart, but we will not give up."

Noam Schalit, the captured soldier's father, said: "It is very encouraging that the nation woke up and that a citizen's took the initiative and asked 'how can this be?'" The kidnapped soldier's father added that "five minutes symbolizes five years in captivity, in the darkness of Gaza, in caves or in basements of the Gaza Strip, and solitary isolation with no communication to the outside world."

Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar called on the public to read Chapter 27 in the book of Psalms during these five minutes, Israel Radio reported. Amar was reportedly at the High Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem, and stopped his activities to pray for Schalit.

“Everyone in the whole country will stop so they can remember Gilad,” Ben Tal told the Post on Monday. He said volunteers have blanketed the country with emails and announcements reminding the public to observe five minutes of silence, and that some radio and TV programs might take part. Schalit's father added that "leaders and decision makers will not be able to ignore the call of the people from the bottom up."

Ben Tal added that he hoped the five minutes of silence would remind the public that Gilad has been sitting in captivity with no communication for almost five years, and that the public must not forget him.
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