(photo credit: JPost Staff)
French President Nicolas Sarkozy sent Gilad Schalit a personal letter in which he told the newly released captive, “I salute your courage.”
“I wish to salute you today on the courage you displayed during the difficult time you went through, to express to you the deep joy and excitement we all feel now.
“The citizens of France are all delighted to learn that you are returning to your home in Mitzpe Hila. I want you to know how much I admire your parents, Noam and Aviva. They serve as an example to us all. France never forgot you,” wrote Sarkozy.
France’s Ambassador to Israel Christophe Bigot personally delivered the letter to Gilad at his Mitzpe Hila home, at the tail end of a long day, in which the young man returned to Israel after five years of captivity in Gaza.
Although Gilad was born in Israel, he holds dual Israeli-French citizenship, and France was a strong advocate on his behalf during his captivity.
Bigot told The Jerusalem Post
that he held a brief meeting with Gilad
after he delivered the letter, and a longer one with the young man’s
parents, Noam and Aviva, who he has known since 2006.
“I feel a personal bond with them. As you know I saw them through the highs and lows of the negotiations,” he said.
“I wanted to tell them that the French people have an extraordinary empathy for Gilad.”
He added that Gilad’s plight had been one that everyone could relate to.
Bigot told Gilad that he admired his parents and the way he had survived such a nightmarish experience.
“When he is ready, we will be very glad to have him in France to celebrate with him.”