Israelis on the street are united in the hope that kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit will be freed, but not all support releasing 450 Palestinians in order to secure his freedom, a sample of interviews conducted by the Jerusalem Post in the capital on Monday found.
However, the clear majority of people interviewed believed that Schalit should be brought home according to the terms of the proposed agreement, and many emphasized that he should be returned home at any cost.
"I would support [the government] releasing everybody from our jails in order to bring [Schalit] home. Bring him home at any cost," said Shira, a middle-aged woman drinking coffee with a friend at the central bus station. "I wish they would reach an agreement tomorrow or the day after. Then they'll be happy and we'll be happy."
Pinchas Avrahami expressed a similar sentiment, telling the Post between bites of falafel that "they should release the whole world if that's what brings [Schalit] home."
"As it is we're paying to keep the prisoners in jail," he continued. "The poor boy should go back to his parents already and be happy."
"The time has come for [the government] to wake up," Avrahami added. "[Schalit] is suffering and so are his parents."
Leah Hanukkah, who was waiting for the bus outside of shuk, said, "Why [should we wait] until they return him dead? Despite the fact that it hurts to release prisoners, [Schalit] is worth far more than what they are releasing."
Although everybody expressed hope that Schalit would eventually be released, a minority of people interviewed thought that freeing terrorists in exchange was inappropriate, and only put the country and other soldiers at greater risk.
"I don't think it's worth releasing terrorists [to free Schalit]," Na'ama Cohen said. "Obviously, we need to free him. However, we need to find a different way. We can't let terrorists set the terms of the agreement because it gives them strength and encouragement to continue and harm us."
"We need to go in and show the world our strength so that they won't ever think about kidnapping another soldier," she added.
"I was also in the army and now I'm in the reserves," said a man wearing a large knitted kippah working in a bakery. "If I were to be kidnapped, I wouldn't want to be released in exchange for so many terrorists."
Many were skeptical about the media attention being given to the current negotiations. After years of constant talk and no progress on the issue, there was a sense of exhaustion and doubt over whether a deal was imminent.
"The problem is that they are constantly raising hopes [that Schalit will be released], but it's never certain what's going to happen," said Ofer, a young man sitting in the food court at the central bus station. Sitting next to him, his friend, Leah, added that "one day [the government] will simply come out with the terms of an agreement. The fact that they are talking so much means he's likely to return dead."
Two religious women, each tending to a baby, described with sincerity the psalms they recite daily as a prayer for Schalit's release. As the week unravels with uncertainty in anticipation of a deal, Israelis are united in sharing these women's deep hope to bring their son home, whether by the terms of these negotiations, or in another way.
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