Wow. That’s was my first reaction to the SMS my brother sent me. The message was short and to the point, “Hope you’re awake and seeing the Gilad Shalit News!” The news was going viral in social media. It took me a few minutes to process it. The @meetgilad account on twitter, part of the meetgilad.com campaign I created, started receiving messages. My brother’s next message arrived, “It’s massive! Your site needs a bit of an update though... :p” He is of course right, and after updating you, dear readers, I’ll jump right into it.
The meetgilad.com site collected thousands of messages for Gilad. We sent these, as a book, to the UN Secretary General to put pressure on him not to ignore Gilad. We sent a copy to Gilad’s parents as well, in the hope they could give their copy to him first. We gave a copy to an Israeli Government Minister when he visited Australia, letting him know down here at the other end of the world Gilad is still at the top of our thoughts. It makes me shake to think that those messages may soon be in Gilad’s hands.
In the end the campaign brought together 34 organisations, and was open to any organisation to join (for free). In 2011 I personally spoke about the campaign for Gilad in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Melbourne, Sydney, Washignton DC, New York, and San Francisco. I spoke informally to people at the President’s Conference, the World Zionist Organisation Va’ad Hapoel, the Jewish Agency Assembly, The ROI Community Summit, to students at the Machon, and to random people on the street. In the last year many were beginning to give up hope. Many had already given up. “Why are you doing this, it’s hopeless, put your energy somewhere useful” I was told more than once. I''ve written before about the revolution we need in our attitude.
Pidyon Shvuyim, the redemption of hostages, is a Jewish Mitzvah. I argued before the Jewish Agency Assembly that we must fight apathy with education. My amendment was voted down because JAFI delegates didn’t want to promote the education of a Mitzvah for fear it might be misunderstood as also endorsing the freeing of convicted terrorists. We need to have values, we need to have principles, and we need to stand for what is right, not merely convenient.
The release of Gilad Shalit is right. The arguments about a prisoner swap and the utilitarian value of it can go on endlessly. Now however is not to time for that discussion. The decision has been made by those elected to make it; and Gilad is coming home. The strategic implications should be discussed, but they should never stop the Jewish state making a morally correct decision. Today the people of Israel should stand proudly behind their government.
No country, no army, and no person is a legitimate target of hostage taking. As Gilad comes home, and we eventually hear his story, the world must renew its commitment to hold those who use terror as a political tool accountable.
Over the next few hours I will be updating www.meetgilad.com so it can be used to collect welcome home messages for Gilad. I encourage you all to leave a message, and to spread the word. We’ll keep the site open through Succot.
Gilad, Chag sameach and welcome home. May G-d soon spread the tabernacle of peace over your house, your family, and all Israel.