Neighbors hold out hope for Shalit

Friends talk of sporty, witty kid

Neighbors of the Shalit family, whose son Cpl. Gilad Shalit was kidnapped early Sunday, described the family as "extremely quiet, gentle and nice," and said they were aghast after hearing about his capture. The Shalit family keep to themselves, and "it's so sad to hear about them for such a terrible reason," according to a neighbor. The family were among the founders of the small community of Mitzpe Hila in the Lower Galilee, a popular retreat for Israelis seeking bed and breakfast establishments in the country's north. "He's such a great kid," said the neighbor. "This is very hard for all of us. We are in shock since we heard about the incident," she said. Her daughter, who attended school with Gilad, was visiting the family together with other members of the community. Shalit's family, like many others in the village, also rents out cabins. "He's one of the funniest people I've ever met," Shalit's friend Dor Peled told Israel Radio. "He loves sports, soccer; he's very athletic." Peled said. He added that Shalit was a good friend, who had never done anyone a bad turn. A student who excelled in mathematics, Shalit once sat with him for two hours before an exam, Peled said. "What I couldn't learn in weeks he taught me in a couple of hours." "The atmosphere here is very tense, but we are hoping for good news," Peled said. Ilana Zrihen, another neighbor, said the family was just waiting to hear that their son would be home soon. "Gilad is a magical kid, quiet and cheerful, everyone's friend," she told Israel Radio. "May he come home soon," she added. A military spokesman assisting the family related that Shalit's brigade commander Col. Moshe Asulin, who was present when the incident occurred, had visited the family and briefed them on the day's events. Maj.-Gen. Elazar Stern, head of the IDF's human resources branch, also visited the family, the spokesman said. In Jerusalem, thousands gathered at the Western Wall to pray for Shalit's safe return.