Noam Schalit speaking 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Israelis across the country wore white on Tuesday to show solidarity with abducted IDF soldier Gilad Schalit 1,402 days after he was kidnapped by Hamas in a cross-border raid in June 2006.
The gesture was the brainchild of 21-year-old Beersheba waiter Ilan Spektor, who in late March launched the Facebook group “on April 27th the whole country will wear white for the sake of Gilad Schalit.”
Spektor said Tuesday that he was surprised by the success of his Facebook group, which by Tuesday morning had nearly 400,000 followers. On the group’s page on Tuesday, several people had uploaded pictures of themselves or their co-workers at schools, banks, malls and towns across Israel, wearing white for Gilad Schalit.
Spektor said that he launched the initiative because “it’s been over 1,400 days since he [Gilad Schalit] was captured, so I figured I should come up with something easy that the whole country can do in order to show their support.”
Spektor said he “expected a large response, but nothing like this. I didn’t think that hundreds of thousands of people would join the group.”
Spektor, who has no personal relationship to Schalit or his family, said, “It’s very moving to see everyone coming together for Gilad and showing how badly they want him to come home.”
At the center of the day of white events was a solidarity rally held at the Rishon Letzion College of Management, where Schalit’s father Noam addressed hundreds of students and staff members dressed in white and waving Israeli flags and placards bearing Gilad’s face.
Schalit told the crowd “Gilad’s cry has echoed for over 1,400 long days and nights, and those who sent him on his mission aren’t answering him.
“He is crying, ‘Free me from this nightmare, the time has come to give me my freedom,’” Schalit said.
Schalit also expressed his appreciation for “a single individual in Beersheba, who started all this at his keyboard.”
University President Ze’ev Neuman dismissed arguments against releasing prisoners “with blood on their hands,” saying “what difference does this make? Our enemies have enough shahids
and our country must protect its soldiers no matter what the price.”
The soldier’s father continued, “I am sure that Gilad would be grateful to see this large crowd who gathered here today, and in many other places throughout the country. He would be humbled to see this concrete support and solidarity.”
Head of the Schalit campaign, Shimshon Libman, told The Jerusalem Post
that the rally in Rishon Letzion “was very moving. There were a few moments when I was moved to tears.”
Libman said that in spite of the support for Schalit’s release he doesn’t feel that the captured soldier will be home soon. Nonetheless, he said that Israelis must understand that bringing him home will extract a heavy price and demand a great deal of fortitude.
“We must understand that we are facing an enemy that is not nice or
just. It’s an enemy that is cruel, but this enemy is the one who we
must reach a deal with to release Gilad.”
Libman said that though the “price tag” associated with Schalit’s
release includes well over 1,000 prisoners in exchange for one soldier,
Israelis should feel that such a disparity in numbers is an indication
“When the Arabs say that one Jew is worth hundreds or thousands of
them, who has the strength? It’s obvious to everyone, even children,
that this shows that we have the strength, not them.”
“This doesn’t make us suckers, it shows the strength we have.”