When I logged onto Facebook Tuesday, 11 of my friends had changed their “status” to indicate that they have been waiting for a man for two years.
No, not for a proposal or a change of heart. The man they are still waiting for is Gilad Shalit, one of the eight kidnapped Israeli soldiers who are still missing. They’re waiting for him to come home alive and well.
An Israeli named Dudi Shani-Gabay set up the Facebook group entitled “24.06 my facebook status is waiting for Gilad Shalit for 2 years!!!” The group has attracted close to 47,000 members, who agreed to switch their status on Facebook from broadcasting their current mood or the details of their latest meal to a more serious cause. The Israeli Consulate listed a similar event in Hebrew, which attracted 26,919 members as of press time.
Jacob Richman was one of the thousands who changed their profile pictures to a photo of Gilad Shalit with the words “I’m also waiting for Gilad” written in Hebrew. “I did it to bring attention to the issue around the world,” says Richman, who lives in Maale Adumim and keeps track of the 1,143 Jewish and Israeli Facebook groups on his Web site, www.jr.co.il. “The issue is well known in Israel but barely registers around the world. Let’s hope and pray to see him returned safely to his home in the very near future.”
The profiles picture and status updates remained in effect until June 25, the second anniversary of Shalit’s kidnapping.
The Facebook campaign is the latest in a wave of grass-roots efforts — including petitions, rallies and fundraisers — aimed at raising awareness about the plight of the eight kidnapped Israeli soldiers. Only recently, however, has the cause been taken online, using social networking sites.
On Wednesday, the Israeli Consulate posted a YouTube featuring five fifth graders at Middle School 22 in the Bronx reading from “When the Shark and the Fish First Met,” a story Shalit wrote when he was 11 about two enemies who defy prejudices and vow to live together in peace.