Noam Schalit 248.88 AJ.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Despite media reports that serious negotiations were under way, Noam Schalit told The Jerusalem Post on Monday night that he could not report on any new progress regarding the release of his kidnapped son Gilad, who has been held in the Gaza Strip since 2006.
Schalit was speaking before the British Maccabiah delegation at an event organized to raise awareness of Gilad's captivity in the Gaza Strip and inspire activism on his behalf. He urged the athletes to put pressure on their government to not let his son's captivity drop off the peace process agenda.
"[Jews outside Israel] can remind their leaders that there is still an unresolved issue between Israel and the Palestinians," he said, telling the athletes that the British government and others seem to be forgetting that Gilad's release is still a critical issue.
After a presentation explaining the details of Gilad's captivity, the roughly 200 participants wrote letters to the International Red Cross, asking them to work harder to gain visitation rights for Gilad. Hamas has yet to allow the Red Cross access to Gilad to verify his health.
Although the participants came to compete, the Maccabiah is also an opportunity to make them more aware of the situation in Israel, said Alex Pinnick, the junior manager for the Great Britain delegation.
"They've come to be educated about their Judaism, their culture and issues like Gilad. I want them to do something proactive," she said, explaining that some knew nothing about Gilad Schalit until they had come.
Amir Goldshmidt, a leader of the youth campaign to free Gilad, who will begin his own military service in three months, also spoke to the British delegation, attempting to impart a better understanding of the situation and inspire them to action.
"I'm here to tell the youth they really can bring change. They can help us with the Red Cross," he told the Post, explaining that they could organize rallies, protests and more letter-writing campaigns to put pressure on the organization.
Soccer participants Hannah Citron and Tova Amor, who both attend a Jewish school in London, said the event, as well as just being in Israel, gave them deeper understanding of the situation.
"I always thought they should get him back whatever the price," Citron said. "I didn't realize it was so complicatedâ€¦ When you see all the soldiers you realize anything can happen."
Goldshmidt's comments to the youthful audience attempted to make that point.
"Who is 18 years old?" Goldshmidt asked the audience. "For me, you could also be Gilad Schalit. I could be the next Gilad Schalit."
Earlier in the day, Noam Schalit and the head of the Free Gilad campaign, Shimshon Lidman, met Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky. During the meeting, it was decided that a Jewish Agency team would be set up to help with the campaign and coordinate activities with Jewish and other pro-Israel communities around the world.