Colosseum turns off lights for Schalit

4,000 Romans called for soldier’s release in Rome ceremony.

Schalit Rome 311 (photo credit: Riccardo De Luca/AP)
Schalit Rome 311
(photo credit: Riccardo De Luca/AP)
ROME – Some 4,000 Romans including Jews, members of interfaith organizations, Christian, Muslim and other friends of Israel, called for Gilad Schalit’s release in a ceremony at Rome’s Colosseum on Thursday.
The lights on the ancient monument were turned off at 11 p.m. – coinciding with midnight commemorations in Tel Aviv.
Rome to switch off Colosseum lights for Schalit
Simultaneously, similar events organized by Italian Jewish youth groups and municipal authorities took place in Milan, Florence, Varese and Turin.
Schalit’s photo was projected in front of the Colosseum while government and Jewish community authorities made eloquent appeals.
“Israel will never, never be alone.
Israel’s right to exist is beyond questioning,” Andrea Ronchi, Italy’s minister for European relations, repeated loudly.
Nicola Zingaretti, president of the Region of Rome (from the opposition PD – Democratic Party) and Renata Spolverini, president of the province (from the governing PdL – Liberty Party) each made strong calls for Schalit’s freedom.
Mayor Gianni Alemanno (PdL) announced that Rome has named Schalit an honorary citizen. Now “hypocrites and one-sided pacifists” are “keeping their distance from city hall” he said, adding that “Gilad’s face must never cease to disturb our consciences.”
Alemanno recalled that once before, in 2008, the Colosseum’s lights had been switched off in protest against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome. “A threat to Israel is a danger to the entire world,” he said.
Schalit’s father, Noam, in Rome for the occasion, made a moving appeal, and a video was shown featuring Italian Jewish elementary school children reading the story Gilad Schalit wrote when he was 11 “When the Shark and the Fish First Met.”
Giuliano Ferrara, editor of Il Foglio, publicly predicted that “the little fish will eat the shark.”
Riccardo Pacifici, president of the Rome Jewish Community, recalled that Human Rights Watch has defined Gilad’s continued forced isolation a case of torture now lasting four years. He noted the “significant absence” of Amnesty International representatives at the commemoration, among others.
On their way back to the former Jewish Ghetto area, Jewish participants clashed with supporters of the Free Gaza Movement who had lit candles on the steps of city hall to commemorate the “11,000 Palestinians confined in Israeli prisons without cause.”
The Rome Jewish Community said the pro-Palestinian activists were armed with chains and knives, while the Palestinians claimed they were victims of an attack. Two pro-Palestinians activists, diagnosed with a concussion and a broken jaw, respectively, were hospitalized.
The police are examining televised records of the clashes to ascertain the truth behind the two conflicting versions.
In a conciliatory gesture, Pacifici offered to visit Gaza together with Yousef Salman, the representative of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society in Rome, “provided he will accept the presence of a representative of Israel’s Red Magen David.”
Gianpiero Gioffredi, a leader of the Democratic Party, said that “ever more frequently, legitimate criticism of Israeli political decisions degenerates into a delegitimization of the Israeli state and anti-Semitism disguised as anti-Zionism.”