Schalit family holds protest in tent outside PM's residence
After Olmert says protests are counterproductive, family urges him to meet kidnappers' demands; terror victims' relatives hold counter demo.
By TOVAH LAZAROFF, JPOSTLEO GIOSUÈCOM STAFF
Two days after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that rallies calling for captive soldier Gilad Schalit's release were unhelpful, Noam Schalit, Gilad's father, and his wife Aviva arrived at Olmert's Jerusalem residence on Sunday morning from their home in the Upper Galilee's Mitzpe Hila to sit in a protest tent all day, including during the time that the cabinet meets.
On the opposite corner, relatives of terror victims, including those who lost their children in a suicide bus-bombing in March of 2003, congregated in a tent of their own to urge Olmert not to release any terrorists who were involved in attacks that killed Israelis.
In the tent, they posted photographs of 180 people killed by terrorists who had been released in past deals.
Speaking to Israel Radio on Sunday morning, Gilad's grandfather Zvi Schalit said that there was "no avoiding meeting the kidnappers' demands." He also criticized those who disapproved of the protest.
"Whoever says that... well, it's not their son or grandson, so it's better that they keep their opinions to themselves," said Zvi. "There is no way out of paying the price to release an IDF soldier."
Ahead of the protest, Noam Schalit said: "We are asking Olmert, who took personal responsibility for this matter almost 1,000 days ago, to end it on his watch."
Meanwhile, on Thursday, Eran Gefan, who directs the advertising firm Interactive, unveiled a one word campaign - "Hatzilu" (Save Me) - to call for Schalit's freedom.
"Save Me!" is the one phrase that the Campaign to Free Gilad Schalit imagines the young man would cry out if he could be heard from Gaza, where he has been held captive by Hamas for close to 1,000 days. So, starting on Sunday, the campaign plans to say it for him.
Gefan said his firm had created a computer font based on Schalit's handwriting so that it could send handwritten notes to decision makers, as well as place the word, in Schalit's handwriting, on billboards and buses. It will send SMS messages with this word to politicians.
In addition, he said, using a computer simulation, the company had created a brief radio advertisement making use of Gilad's voice as it is heard in the cassette which he sent his family one year after his kidnapping.
"We built the cry of Gilad, what we thought he would say to us if he could," Gefan told reporters at a press conference in Tel Aviv. "We are bringing the voice of Gilad and his plea to the public," said Gefan. "Families in Israel will get a letter that he has written and hear his cry."
"It is the minimum that he could ask," said Hezi Mashita, who heads the campaign.
He said the campaign was stepping up its activities in the hope of swaying Olmert to find a way to free Schalit before he leaves office in the next few weeks.
Hamas has demanded the release of 1,400 prisoners in exchange for Schalit, including those who have been involved in terrorist attacks. Israel has yet to authorize such a deal, and has in turn insisted it will not fully open the crossings into Gaza unless Schalit was released.
Mashita said his group has increased its activities because it wants to do everything possible to secure Gilad's release.
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