(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Former kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit and his entire family are “deeply concerned” over the fate of the three Israeli teenagers recently kidnapped from a Gush Etzion hitchhiking post, Schalit’s father, Noam, told visiting European Jewish leaders in Jerusalem Wednesday.
Speaking to delegates from 23 European communities visiting under the auspices of the Israeli- Jewish Congress, Schalit said that, “Gilad and our family, like all Israelis and Jews around the world, are praying and wishing that they will come back home safe and sound very soon.”
As a family that has “suffered so much from these terrorist actions of the Palestinians,” he said the kidnapping is now “our main concern,” adding that he hopes the families of Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrah have their sons returned just as Gilad was.
Israeli-Jewish Congress CEO Michel Gourary presented Schalit with a medal on behalf of the European leaders. Schalit thanked them for their support during his son’s five-year imprisonment, stating that he is grateful that world Jewry mobilized on Gilad’s behalf.
Schalit declined to comment on how the Israeli government should go about returning the captives. “I am not giving any specific advice to the Israeli government,” he told The Jerusalem Post
Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, a former chief rabbi, prayed for the return of the teenaged yeshiva students and emphasized the bonds of brotherhood that connect Jews all over the world.
Addressing the European delegates, Lau stated that they are the bridge between Israel and the Diaspora that enables widely separated communities to remain “one nation.”
Following the speeches, members of the Israeli-Jewish Congress signed a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu condemning the kidnapping and expressing their support for the government’s efforts to free the boys.
“Just as the state of Israel stands with the Jewish communities in Europe, especially in light of the wave of anti-Semitic attacks and the recent terrorist attack on the Brussels Jewish museum, so to do we, the Jewish communities of Europe, stand united, together with Israel, as one community in this time of need.
“All our activity is directed to bring a feeling of one people to European communities and our efforts for the last two years are bringing results,” IJC president Vladimir Sloutsker told the Post
In a separate letter to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sent earlier this week, representatives of the organized Belgian Jewish community called on the PA to make every effort to return the teens.
In their letter, Maurice Sosnowski of the Comité de Coordination des Organisations Juives de Belgique and Raphaël Werner of the FORUM der Joodse Organisaties, told Abbas that the kidnapping had either been perpetrated by Hamas or the Fatah-affiliated Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, both of which are tied to the current unity government in Ramallah, which they hold responsible.
The delegates were also addressed by the teens’ mothers, who requested that they speak out and act to push for their sons’ release. Bat Galim Shaer, the mother of Gil- Ad, told the IJC delegates and leaders of the Jewish Federations of North America, that the mothers “understand that you have the power not only to be active in the Jewish community and in the general community in your countries, but also to help us bring our children home.
The world must understand that kidnapping children is unconditionally illegitimate.”