. In their final effort to pressure the Olmert government to secure the release of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, the Shalit family have stationed themselves in a protest tent across the Prime Minister’s Residence for more than a week now. Rain or shine, the family gathers together each day as reporters, cameramen and thousands of supporters mill around, amid the sad faces of Gilad‘s parents, Noam and Aviva, and older brother, Yoel.
“We are cautiously waiting to see what will happen,” said Noam Shalit on a rainy Sunday standing outside the tent and speaking with Sderot Media Center and press. The family believes that these last few days are critical during the final attempts to negotiate a release deal with Hamas but continue to remain wary. “I am not at all optimistic. If I were optimistic, I wouldn't be here. I would be at home,” Noam Shalit said.
Noam Bedein and Noam Shalit
Photo: Anav Silverman
A sign at the protest tent lists the number of days that Gilad has been held captive by Hamas--this Saturday it will be 1,000 days. Palestinian terrorists captured Gilad at the Erez border crossing almost three years ago, when Hamas won control of the Gaza Strip. He has since been denied Red Cross visitations or communication with his family and the outside world.
In a country where the military plays a pivotal role and everyone knows someone in service, the Gilad Shalit capture has touched the hearts of Israelis across the nation, making him a national symbol. Posters, photos and flags of Gilad, a typical looking nineteen year-old in glasses, can be found plastered on cars, malls, and homes throughout the country.
Recently, however, the continuing storm in Israel surrounding Gilad’s capture made some small waves in the US Congress.