On August 26th, hundreds of people from our community gathered for one cause: Gilad Shalit. It was one of the proudest moments of my life, to look at this big crowd and know that I am privileged to be serving as an emissary among such passionate supporters of Israel. We gave the event the title: "Gilad Shalit: Everybody's Child" and this is exactly what it felt like: that Gilad was the son, brother, grandson or personal friend of everyone who came to join our prayer for Gilad's well being and hasty release.
We handed out postcards for people to fill out and send to the Red Cross. Many wrote about their feelings, how they think about Gilad every day; and how they long for him to come home. Parents wrote about not being able to imagine what Gilad's parents are going through; and young people wrote about what it must be like to be robbed of your freedom.
One postcard in particular caught my eye. It was written by a young boy from Minneapolis. It said,"I am 14 years old and I live in Minnesota. But in four years I will enlist in the IDF and make Aliyah. This is because of you (Gilad). You have changed my life and shaped my fate and we have never even met. You are living through a nightmare I can only imagine and every day I pray for your release. You are missed by people across the world and we all hope you come home soon."
During Operation cast Lead in Gaza, I sent daily updates to a group of friends in the Twin Cities. After a member of a Kibbutz of one of my colleagues was killed during the fighting in Gaza, I shared these thoughts with them: "In the Second Lebanon War 121 IDF soldiers were killed. I didn't know any of them personally, but I still remember many of the names, and not just from that war but from previous ones as well and from past military operations. This is true for many of my friends and for many other Israelis. This extraordinary sensitivity to human life is one of Israel's greatest strengths and, as some may say, one of its more vulnerable sides. When a soldier is killed, his picture is immediately published, stories about his life and personality are posted on websites; interviews with his family and friends are shown over and over again in the Israeli media; funerals are always broadcasted on national TV, unless the family specifically asks otherwise. Could there ever be too much sensitivity to human lives? Where do we draw the line between the willingness (and unfortunately the necessity) to sacrifice what is most precious to life being more sacred than anything? This, many would say, is what makes us ultimately different from our enemies as, unlike them, we cherish life and mourn death."
Gilad Shalit IS STILL ALIVE. His name, face and boyish smile have become part of every home in Israel and among many families and hearts across the world. The sacred Jewish value of human life is given its utmost meaning when it comes to soldiers in captivity. This shouldn't make us weaker; it ought to make us stronger, as it represents high moral standards; our ethics. But it can only make us stronger if we are together. When we join hands for this common cause, here in Minnesota, in other communities through the US and the world and in Israel; then we are one front, making sure that our voices are heard loud and clear, for the right thing. This is the true meaning of solidarity.