"The bill didn’t come as a surprise," Noam Schalit tells 'Post' at tent outside PM’s residence in Jerusalem.
By MELANIE LIDMAN
As if Noam and Aviva Schalit didn’t have enough to worry about as they started their sixth month in a protest tent outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, they have now received their first electricity bill.The bill, totalling more than NIS 800 for the months of November and December, will be taken care of by the Keren Maor foundation, the charity the Schalits started to help them finance their campaign to pressure Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to rescue their soldier son Gilad, who has spent almost 1,700 days in captivity in Gaza.The bill didn’t come as a surprise, Noam Schalit told the Post at the protest tent on Tuesday as supporters milled around and bought t-shirts.“The electricity company is a government company, and they can’t give things away for free,” he said.A few months ago, the tent was winterized by volunteers, with a new floor being installed to avoid flooding during storms, and heat lamps on both sides.Until the winterization process, a neighbor provided electricity. But with the temperatures dropping, the Schalits appealed to the electric company to set up a separate connection.The family received permission from the Jerusalem municipality for the hookup, and the Jerusalem workers committee, which oversees the electric company in the capital, agreed to wave the installation fee. Electric company technicians set up the connection in their free time, a company spokeswoman said.The spokeswoman added that as a public utility, the company cannot give discounts or free electricity to anyone.The connection will remain active as long as the municipality allows the electric company to maintain it, meaning there could be a permanent outlet at the site, which has long been a venue for protests on a wide variety of issues, some of them long-term.The tent also has a wireless Internet connection, and the Schalits receive regular mail addressed to 1 Rehov Aza.The captive soldier’s parents and other members of his family have been in the protest tent every day since last June, when they completed a nine-day “Freedom March” to the site from their home in Mitzpe Hila in the western Galilee, accompanied by thousands of supporters. They plan to remain in the tent “until Gilad can come home with us,” the family has said.St.-Sgt Gilad Schalit was kidnapped from his position on the Israeli side of the Gaza border on June 25, 2006.
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