Gilad Schalit 248.88.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The UK Zionist Federation held a vigil outside the offices of the British Red Cross in central London on Friday to mark Gilad Schalit's 23rd birthday and called on the humanitarian organization to do more to secure information about the captive soldier.
Participants handed out pieces of birthday cake and literature to passersby to raise awareness of the plight of Schalit, held prisoner in Gaza by Hamas for over three years, and received a generally good response.
"We were genuinely touched to hear so many heartfelt expressions of sympathy and regret, especially from Muslims who told us that they would pray for his safe return," said one participant, Eylon Levy.
The federation's assistant director, Gary Sakol, led a delegation to the Red Cross offices where they met with the head of the International Law Department, Michael Meyer, and presented him with a birthday cake. The delegation asked him to increase pressure on the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to do more to secure visitation rights.
Meyer confirmed the meeting.
"As a representative of the British Red Cross, I met with a delegation from the Zionist Federation who presented me with a cake to mark the birthday of Gilad Schalit," Meyer said. "In return I handed the delegation a recent press release from the International Committee of the Red Cross and passed on assurances that the ICRC is doing all it can to press for access to Mr. Schalit and establish the contacts with his family to which he is entitled under international humanitarian law."
Sakol confirmed receiving the press release but said the document was dated June 18, hence the federation asked them to step up their efforts.
"Meyer handed us a news release which detailed how the ICRC was urging Hamas to allow the captured Israeli soldier regular contact with his family. However this was from 18 June. It was suggested to the Red Cross that it was perhaps appropriate for them to increase their activity and issue an up-to-date news release," he said.
The federation also launched on Friday a Rosh Hashana greeting appeal for Schalit, inviting people to send him new year greetings. The messages will be presented to the ICRC and will hopefully be passed on to Schalit.
The appeal also includes the option of signing a petition calling for the British government to do more to secure Schalit's release.
"We will also pass the wishes onto his parents, to show that the world is still thinking of them and Gilad and praying for his release," said Sakol. "Last year we collected over 2,000 cards for Gilad and delivered them to ICRC.
"This year, with the help of the Internet, [www.gilad.org.uk] we hope to receive many more. We are asking everyone to forward this campaign on, far and wide across the world."