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Gilad Shalit

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I am slightly obsessed with the Gilad Shalit case right now.  I just find it so fascinating that I’ve been watching and reading everything the internet has to offer on it.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about Wikipedia has a very good article about him.  If you’re at all interested in this you MUST read this article too.  It’s an absolutely fascinating article published in the New York Times a few days ago titled “Gilad Shalit and the Rising Price of an Israeli Life”.  It tracks the history of terror groups taking Israelis hostages and the rescue attempts and negotiations to get them back.

A sum up if you’re too lazy to check out the links:  he’s an Israeli Defense Force soldier who, in 25 June 2006 at the age of 19, was captured by Hamas militants who had tunneled into Israel.  He was released 18 Oct 2011 after over five years in captivity in an underground bunker in Gaza.  The only contact he had with the outside world was three letters, an audio tape and a short film.  After extensive negotiations he was exchanged for the release of 1,027 Palestinians.  The majority of prisoners exchanged for him were in Israeli prisons for terror and murder related charges.  He was returned malnourished, underweight and with a vitamin D deficiency.

Here is the video filmed in captivity in 2009 subtitled in English:

Below is a video of Shalit being returned to Israel in October.  He is seen saluting the Israeli PM, the defense minister and reuniting with his father.

I have no particular allegiance to either the Israeli or the Palestinian causes, though I feel more towards the Israelis.  I guess I consider them “the West” and feel a lot more in common with them.  I understand the need for a Jewish homeland.  That being said both sides have committed disgusting acts of  hatred-fueled violence towards each other.  Also, I find the discrepancies in living conditions between the two sides difficult to swallow.   I have some working knowledge of the conflict, but I don’t feel enough to make any really intelligent statements about it.

My fascination about the case is not about allegiances or really about the politics.  What completely fascinates me is the lengths that Israel will go to have their “son” returned.  A lot of Israelis said they felt he was like a son or brother to them.  The unity on the issue, and the popular support for his return was just amazing.  This is in contrast to the total lack of a loud voice from America toward their captured in Iraq and Afghanistan.  What the Taliban asked for in return for Sgt Bowe Bergdahl was pocket change (and yet unpaid) compared to what Israel paid for Shalit.  I think these nation’s reactions to their respective soldiers taken hostage speaks volumes on who they are.  The soldier and the nations they fight for sign a sort of “social contract” and Israel takes that very seriously (as it and all nations should).  (Their efforts, and the price they eventually paid for him, has a lot to do with Jewish religion and culture too and it is well covered in the aforementioned NYT article.)

I suppose too that, as a Canadian in a nation that rarely unifies on any point, I am a little jealous for what the Israelis have on that front.

The other thing I find so intriguing about the case is the negotiations (go read the linked NYT article…really).  The Palestinians viewed 1000 for one as a triumph.  I actually don’t think the prisoner exchange favored them at all.  I think that it was a snub on the part of the Israelis in regards to what they think an Israeli life is worth vs. a Palestinian.  One to 1000 apparently.

I also find the story of Gilad – as a man, a soldier, a soul – very interesting.   I feel a sort of connection to him as a “brother in arms”.  He just seems to likable and such a gentle soul and the kind of guy I’d like to have a beer with.  I can’t even imagine what five years felt like for him.



Written by erinoffduty

November 13, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Posted in Serious stuff