noam shalit, yoav appel .
(photo credit: Yoav Appel [file])
The father of kidnapped Cpl. Gilad Schalit, 20, urged the government on Saturday to do more to secure the release of his son and the other two soldiers taken captive last year.
"I hope the government will pick up its pace on returning the kidnapped soldiers [Schalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev]," Noam Schalit told reporters at a bike rally in the North for the captives.
The event marked the one-year anniversary of his son's abduction by Hamas near the Gaza border on June 25. Reservists Goldwasser, 32, and Regev, 26, were taken by Hizbullah as they patrolled the northern border on July 12, in an attack that helped spark the Second Lebanon War.
Since then, only the Schalit family has received any sign of life from their son, in the form of a handwritten letter penned by Gilad that was given to them in September. The Goldwasser and Regev family have heard nothing of their Ehud and Eldad.
In their latest effort to publicize the plight of the captives, the families are participating in a number of events.
On Saturday, they joined approximately 5,000 bicyclists in a 28-kilometer ride organized by the Israel Cycling Federation from Regba to Rosh Hanikra on the Lebanese border and back.
On Sunday, a procession of cars will leave Schalit's hometown of Mitzpe Hila in the Galilee and travel to Jerusalem, where the families plan to hold a demonstration in front of the Knesset at 11 a.m. A demonstration is also planned for Haifa on July 12.
But the flurry of activity can't erase the families' discouragement over the lack of progress in releasing the three men, Noam Schalit told The Jerusalem Post in a telephone interview.
It was particularly difficult now that Hamas had taken over the Gaza Strip, Schalit said, because as a result all efforts to secure his son's release had been halted.
"It stopped all the negotiations," he said. "The Egyptians are not in Gaza and they are not working on it. Nothing is happening."
Schalit said he spoke on Friday with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who assured him that he would be speaking with the Egyptians about his son and that there would be new attempts to see if anything could be
Schalit said the government should meet Hamas's demands to release prisoners in exchange for his son.
"The longer we wait, the price for his release only goes up," he said.
Since that June day a year ago, nothing has been the same for Gilad's parents, his older brother Yoel and his younger sister Hadas.
"We are always fearful" for Gilad's safety, his father said. He last saw him on June 21, 2006, when he came home for a brief break from the army.
In those first days, while the media camped out on his doorstep in Mitzpe Hila, he feared that his son would not be immediately returned, but he didn't image he would find himself still in the dark on Gilad's fate a year later.
"How could I imagine it, I had no past experience," he said. "I just hope we won't go through another nightmarish year," he said.
The lack of progress has frustrated all three families.
"A year has passed and the bottom line is, nothing has changed," Ehud Goldwasser's father, Shlomo, told the Post on Saturday night. He knows no more now than he did on the day his son was taken.
He had been left with the feeling that all the power was in the hands of Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
"He is conducting everything and there is nothing from our own initiation," Shlomo said.
The Schalits' neighbor Elana Levi-Zrihen said the residents of Mitzpe Hila had organized Sunday's protest in front of the Knesset in hopes of pushing the government to act.
"We want to yell out loud, but because we live in the Galilee they do not hear us, so we decided to go the Knesset. Maybe they will hear us better," said Levi-Zrihen.
She said she believed that the nation has moved on and was not paying attention to the plight of the three men.
"In my eyes the nation has forgotten them. But we have not forgotten them," said Levi-Zrihen.
In Mitzpe Hila, where there are only 150 families, Gilad's absence was clearly felt, she said. When they see the group of young adults his age, it was obvious to them that one was missing.â€¢