Four years after he became a hostage of Hamas, in a terrorist strike that killed two Israeli soldiers, Gilad Shalit is a prisoner somewhere in Gaza.
Four years after he became a symbol of Hamas intransigence, Shalit is a bargaining chip — his life for the freedom of 1,000 or more Palestinian terrorists in Israeli jails.
Four years after he disappeared, Shalit is more visible than ever — as a symbol in Israel.
An international political campaign to earn his release took to the streets of Israel the last two weeks, with an estimated 100,000 people marching from Shalit’s home in the Galilee to a rally in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square and then to Jerusalem; a demonstration was to be held Thursday this week outside of the residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.
And in Sderot, the southern Israeli city that has been the target of hundreds of Hamas rocket attacks in recent years, conductor Zubin Mehta this week led the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra in an open-air concert in Shalit’s honor.
One member of the audience, left top, waves an Israeli flag during the concert, which featured a speech by Noam Shalit, Gilad’s father, left bottom.
“It is a gesture for this young man and his family in order to tell the world that four years without a single visit is too long,” Mehta, above in front of a projected picture of Shalit, said at the concert, the BBC reported. “We have an obligation to dream and we want Gilad Shalit, in the first instance, to receive Red Cross visits, and then to be freed as soon as possible.”
Hamas has consistently refused requests from the International Committee of the Red Cross or other humanitarian organizations to visit Shalit, who was a 19-year-old corporal when captured at an army base near Gaza’s Kerem Shalom crossing. He has since been promoted to staff sergeant.
The Shalit family visited the kidnapping site this week.
In a televised address from his office last week, Netanyahu said Israel is willing “to pay a heavy price for the release of Shalit, but not at any price.”