Schalits to meet with Netanyahu

"Freedom marchers" spend evening in Kiryat Motzkin tent city.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
June 28, 2010 04:33
Good photo

311_ schalit march good. (photo credit: Ben Spier)

The Freedom March for kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit ended its journey on Monday at the town of Kiryat Motzkin, police reported.

The exact path of tomorrow's procession has not yet been publicized.

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Noam Schalit responded Monday to Prime Minister Netanyahu's invitation to meet with the couple. In an interview on Israeli radio Noam Schalit said " Netanyahu called us up and we will go to meet with him when reach Jerusalem. We will demand action and results."

Regarding the split in public opinion concerning the release of terrorists in exchange for his son's freedom, Noam Schalit said the family is aware of the complications but "four years is enough time for the government to consider the options and carry them out. The bottom line is that there are no results."

Almost 7,000 people set out towards Kiryat Motzkin on the second half of Mondays march for Gilad Schalit. Kiryat Motzkin municipality set up a "tent city" for all the people that arrived in the city in connection with march.

The march began on Sunday, as yellow balloons for captive soldier Gilad Schalit fluttered across the north.  Ten thousand people joined his parents, Noam and Aviva, as they set out on an 11-day trek to Jerusalem, in hopes of pressuring the government to meet Hamas’s demands for their son’s release.

“It was a pleasant surprise to see the public come out en masse. I ask everyone who can continue, to march with us until we get to Jerusalem,” a tired Noam told a cheering crowd, who gathered at the end of the day at a brief ceremony in the Nahariya Mall.

Noam and Aviva Schalit march 
to Jerusalem, Sunday.
As they waited for Noam and Aviva in the mall’s large food court, the crowd shouted “Alive, Alive, Gilad is still alive!” and “We want Gilad!”

At the same time, Hamas released a short video on the Web site of its military wing, showing a tank exploding along a fenced border, with the date of Gilad’s kidnapping along Israel’s southern border, June 25, 2006.

Four years ago, journalists camped outside the Schalit family home in Mitzpe Hila in the Upper Galilee, while Noam and Aviva sat secluded inside, waiting for news of their son, who had just been kidnapped by Hamas.

Feeling as if they were no closer to seeing their son today than they had been then, early Sunday morning, sporting knapsacks and wearing white T-shirts with a blue lithograph of their son, Noam and Aviva walked out of their home, determined not to return unless Gilad is with them.

Adapting the words of a well-known Israeli song to fit the march, Noam said, as they embarked, “Suddenly a man wakes in the morning, feels that the nation is with him, and starts walking.”

To accommodate the crowd of marchers, police closed the two-lane stretch of Route 89 heading from Mitzpe Hila to Nahariya, creating traffic jams throughout the area as they rerouted traffic.

Students at Gilad's high school perform abstract skit

The march’s first stop was Kibbutz Kabri, where Gilad had gone to high school. The kibbutz set up tables of water, fruit and pastries for them under a blue plastic awning.

Inside the kibbutz auditorium, high school seniors performed a brief abstract skit on a stage set up with larger than life photographs of Gilad, along with a slogan that was printed on some of the marchers’ T-shirts, “You sent him and you forgot him?”

A small group of students stood barefoot on the wooden planked stage, wearing black. Some had their hands and eyes bound in black cloth.

“When I imagine captivity, all I see is darkness,” said one.

“I never thought it would happen to me,” said another.

“Gilad also thought that,” said a third.

“If the army does not care for its soldiers, then I do not want to enlist in such an army,” said a fourth.

Their principal, Rina Cohen, said that the students on the stage had been just about to enter ninth grade when Gilad was kidnapped.

The lives of these students on stage, as well as those throughout Israel, are not what they were, said Cohen. It is no longer possible as it once was to speak of an IDF ethic of not abandoning soldiers on the battlefield, she said.

Moving forward with the same sense of communal responsibility that the nation once had sounds hollow after these last four years, she said. An educational violation has occurred, which cannot be fixed, she said.

Parents of Goldwasser, Regev join marn

By the time the marchers reached Nahariya, their numbers had dwindled to 800. They were joined there by the parents of reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, who were killed on the northern border on July 12, 2006, and whose bodies were returned to Israel two years later.

For those two years, Goldwasser and Regev’s relatives fought alongside the Schalit family for the release of all three, and have stood with them in their continued fight.

Regev’s father Tzvi told The Jerusalem Post it was important for him to come to Nahariya from his Haifa home, even though Monday is the Hebrew date of his son’s death.

The Schalit family plans to reach Kiryat Motzkin outside of Haifa by the end of Monday. They will continue until they reach Jerusalem on July 8. The length of the trip is 12 days but they are stopping to rest on Shabbat, thereby making it an 11-day trek.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu opened Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting by noting that Friday had been the fourth anniversary of Schalit’s abduction, and that the government and security services were continuing – “in open and in secret” – to pursue efforts to bring him home safe and sound.

PM invites Noam Schalit to meeting in Jerusalem

Netanyahu said he phoned Noam Schalit and invited him to a meeting immediately after the march reaches Jerusalem.

“I told him, ‘I know, Noam, that you are on a long journey, which will end in Jerusalem,” said Netanyahu.

He added that he has spoken with Noam Schalit on many occasions, and that he also recently spoke with Gilad’s grandfather, Tzvi Schalit.

“Our heart is with Gilad and with his family,” Netanyahu said. “Four years after his abduction, I call on the international community to line up alongside Israel and [back] our unequivocal and just demand that our abducted soldier be returned immediately.”

In recent days, Netanyahu has stressed in private conversations that he understands the Schalit family’s pain and distress, and that it is natural for them to be focusing solely on releasing Gilad.

But he has also said that his imperative to “redeem captives” must be balanced with his overall responsibility to the security of all the country’s citizens, and in this particular case to ensure that terrorists who have murdered hundreds of Israeli citizens are not allowed back to areas from where they will be able to kill again.

Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog told reporters before Sunday’s cabinet meeting that he hoped those marching on behalf of Schalit would muster a lot of public support.

“There is no need here to think in terms of ‘for’ or ‘against,’” he said. “I ask from those marching that their messages  not cross the red line and impact on the negotiations for Schalit’s release.”

Herzog said it was possible to use other leverages against Hamas, such as hardening the conditions for Hamas prisoners in Israeli jails.

Israel refuses to release "mega-terrorists"

Israel has expressed a willingness to release some 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, including 450 names agreed upon with Hamas, in return for Schalit on condition that more than 100 of these prisoners who are responsible for some 600 Israeli deaths are not allowed to return to the West Bank, but go either to Gaza or a third country.

Likewise, Israel is refusing to release “mega-terrorists” responsible for the worst terrorist atrocities over the last 20 years, including the attack at the Dolphinarium in Tel Aviv in 2001, the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem in 2001, and the Park Hotel in Netanya on Seder night in 2002.

Aviva Schalit told Channel 2 on Sunday night in response that her family had nothing to do with the price Hamas had demanded in exchange for their son, which had been determined through indirect negotiations between Hamas and the last government.

Aviva said she would have preferred that Hamas had demanded much less. But after four years of waiting in vain, she said, it was obvious that there was no other alternative.

She added that the large volume of people who had come out to walk with them, showed that the public was with them in demanding that Gilad be returned home.


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