During the week between Netanyahu''s announcement that a deal was brokered with Hamas to bring Gilad Shalit home and the day Gilad Shalit returned, my mother was visiting Israel. The timing was surreal: just as I was preparing to pick up my Mom from the airport, I read that Gilad Shalit was really coming home.
Courtesy of conskeptical at Creative Commons
As I was waiting for my Mom to enter the visitors'' zone at the airport, I was doubly emotional. I was about to see my Mom, whom I hadn''t seen in half a year. At the same time, I couldn''t help imagining the joy the Shalit family would feel in a week when they''d finally get to see their son.
Similar to my Dad, my Mom had only visited Israel once in the 1970s. Whereas my Dad''s main memories were falafel, camels, and pushing, my Mom''s recollections mostly centered around the pushing. She had felt no relationship to the country beyond an abstract Jewish allegiance, slow Sunday school stories, and the news. Considering my Mom has been an atheist her whole life, has always driven a Volvo because it is the safest car, and has no Israeli family, I can''t say she was thrilled by my decision to move here. If I weren''t living in Israel, I''m pretty sure my Mom would have never come back.
So when my Mom cried when I told her that Gilad Shalit was coming home, I was touched. But I suppose it shouldn''t have been so surprising. Like many people around the world, my Mom could relate to the story of a son, who had been a prisoner of war for five and a half years, coming back to his family. This went far beyond religion or politics.
At the end of the trip, which was a day after he returned, I asked her what it was like to be in Israel during this historic period of time. She said it made her connect to Israel more because it felt more human than she might have imagined. It was a real community. Gilad Shalit''s release showed her that every life in Israel truly matters.
On the surface, Gilad Shalit''s return was purely positive to her. A soldier was coming back to his family and perhaps it could enable Israel to make other difficult diplomatic decisions around the peace process. Now that the country no longer needed to worry about his safety, perhaps it would have the energy to focus on other things.
However, it also made her understand how complex the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is. This was deeply painful for families of terror victims and ordinary Israelis. Over 1,000 prisoners were being let out that very well might kill more people (many were responsible for terrorism during the second intifada). It made Hamas more powerful. And ultimately, it encouraged capturing more soldiers as a tactic to release prisoners.
These intense and varied moral considerations made her realize how complicated life is in Israel. I was proud of my Mom to see this complexity. Many people visit Israel and try to categorize it in political black/white terms and fail to witness the grey.
It made me wish more foreigners could have experienced Gilad Shalit''s return.
Gilad Shalit talking to his mother; Courtesy of Israel Defense Forces