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Some 300 schools and tens of thousands of children across the country joined forces with the families of kidnapped IDF soldiers Ehud Goldwasser, Eldad Regev and Gilad Schalit on Tuesday.
Organizers said the rallies, which were joined by at least two Jewish schools in New York, were designed to press for the issue of the captive soldiers to be placed high on the national agenda.
"We won't be able to celebrate freedom [on Pessah] this year," said Schalit's father, Noam. "We will sit at home and wait for Gilad's freedom," he told pupils at the school in Moshav Meona where Gilad, brother Yoel and sister Hadas studied.
Goldwasser's wife, Karnit, called on pupils at the Even Hen elementary school in Shoham to send letters and photographs to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and others reminding them of the soldiers' fate and encouraging them to act.
Education Minister Yuli Tamir, who stood alongside Karnit Goldwasser at the Shoham event, told pupils it was "in the power of thousands of children to return the kidnapped soldiers home" and called on the government to pursue every avenue of dialogue to obtain their return.
Regev's brother Eyal told high school students at the Pirchei Aharon Yeshiva in Haifa, which Eldad attended, that the second Lebanon war should not have ended before the kidnapped soldiers were freed.
"We hope and believe the government is doing everything it can and is not putting any obstacles in the way of returning the kidnapped [men]," he said.
At the ORT Singalovsky school in Ramat Gan, MK Silvan Shalom (Likud) criticized the international community for failing to work for the soldiers' release. He said Israel was dealing with "blood-thirsty" opponents and called on Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah to release information on the condition of Goldwasser and Regev.