I received the following article in my inbox this morning. It is written by Rebecca Caspi, the JFNA Senior Vice President and Director of the JFNA Israel Office, on the recent release of Israeli Defense Force Soldier Gilad Shalit.
A Personal View from Jerusalem
Oct. 18, 2011
Gilad Shalit is finally home! Welcome back Gilad! I cannot even begin to express how long I have been waiting to write those very words. I know, of course, how closely people across our Federation movement have been following his story, how much this support has meant to his family. This is a uniquely Israeli story. You just can’t imagine the joy, the pain, the pride, the loss – the tumultuous swirling emotions that have enveloped the nation.
There is no other story in the media, there is no other discussion around people’s Shabbat tables and I’d even go as far as to say that there is barely a song being played on the radio that is not dedicated to Gilad. The fact that Shalit, the IDF soldier captured by Hamas on June 25, 2006, the young man who has spent six birthdays in captivity, is being returned to the world of sunlight and freedom, is the only subject in town.
I think back to the milestones passed in my own family over the past five years, the past 1,940 days that Shalit has been held, in confinement, stripped of his human rights, denied even a visit by the Red Cross, paralyzed by the hands of the enemy. How many times did we let our minds linger too long on the matter to shake ourselves to action, affirming, Gilad is still alive, yes, Gilad is still alive. They say that Gilad is the son of all of Israel, that we are all responsible for him. As an Israeli, I really felt that.
How ironic that “Shalit” was heavily trending on Twitter this past week. Yet, Gilad probably has no idea what Twitter even is.
I don’t know how many times I have walked past the tent Gilad’s parents first pitched outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s house – just around the corner from JFNA’s Jerusalem offices – in March 2009, the 1,000th day of their son’s captivity. And how painful it has always been to look Noam and Aviva in the eyes, knowing that I could not – and did not want to – fully comprehend their pain. Yet, like so many thousands of others, I was with them and I wanted to show that. And today, Tuesday, I am smiling along with the rest of the country. We’re simply so happy he’s home.
Religious and secular, left wing and right wing – all have campaigned for Gilad’s release. For the past long five years, psalms were read in synagogues for his safe release, youth marched, bloggers posted, politicians campaigned and everyone dreamt of this day. A large group of Chasidim danced through the night on Thursday to celebrate Gilad’s return.
Whether it is just or not to release 1,027 prisoners for one man, whether Israel’s security will be able to withstand these terrorists’ attempts the second time round, it is clear that all of Israel has rallied together in support of Gilad in a way that they did not for any other cause.
No other country in history has ever paid such a high price for one man’s life; Israel is sending a message to its citizens, its soldiers, that Israel will take responsibility for all people.
Of course, like all Israelis, I have very mixed emotions.
It was with a terrible pit in my stomach that I read the list of the 1,027 terrorists being released to their homes (in some cases, only a matter of miles from where I live) to be welcomed back as heroes. I remember where I was when the Sbarro pizza restaurant was exploded by a suicide bomb in 2001, murdering 15 people and brutally injuring 130. The woman who drove the car for the bomber, and was closely involved in the planning is being let out. This same woman, when imprisoned, declared she had no regrets and anyway, she knew she’d be let out in a prisoner swap sometime soon and when out, she’d carry on. When asked on television whether she knew how many children had been killed in that attack, she replied that she did not. On being told that the number was eight, she allowed a big smile to break out on her face- all in front of the camera, for the whole world to see.
Dalia Cohen’s daughter Kinneret was murdered in 1989 by terrorist Abed al-Hadi Ganaim when he took control of a public bus and drove it off a cliff. “On the one hand, I am happy that Gilad is coming back to his mother,” says Dalia. “I am also a mother and I know what it’s like. I know how much I would want to get my child back. Everybody is happy around me but I cannot rejoice. Abed al-Hadi Ganaim was set free today. I feel like I am betraying my daughter. I feel like she is screaming, her blood, her ashes are crying out to us and I cannot do anything to prevent it.”
President Shimon Peres, in praising Netanyahu for his actions, says: “The safety of each soldier is no less important than the safety of the nation as a whole, and the anguish of a family who lost loved ones to terror is also the anguish of the nation.” In the words of the 3,000 ‘welcome home’ banners plastering the country, ‘Gilad, it’s good to have you back home’. We are with you.
And the whole country is once again shedding tears of happiness and pride; pain and fear; and, above all relief and hope. Welcome home Gilad. We’ve missed you.
Rebecca Caspi, JFNA Senior Vice President and Director of the JFNA Israel Office
Please also see these breaking news reports from Israel:
Jerusalem Post — Schalit reunites with parents, PM welcomes him to Israel http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=242250
Ha’aretz — Gilad Shalit reunites with family at IDF base following return to ISrael http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/gilad-shalit-reunites-with-family-at-idf-base-following-return-to-israel-1.390719
We just received word that Anteaters for Israel will be hosting Jossi Herzog, an openly gay soldier in the Israel Defense Forces. The event takes place at UC Irvine tomorrow, October 4th, at 1:45PM in Doheny Beach A (in the student center). Below is a short video clip of Jossi.
We are told that Jossi will be sharing his experiences serving in the Israeli army as a gay soldier, as well as his involvement in the LGBTQ community. The event is cosponsored by Delta Lambda Phi, a national fraternity for gay, bisexual, and progressive men.
Last week, the Israeli Navy uncovered weaponry onboard a cargo vessel intended for terror organizations in the Gaza Strip. The following video, which was published on YouTube by the Israel Defense Forces on its YouTube Channel, details what the vessel was doing, its path and what was found on the ship.
Here are just some of the items shown on the video from the Israeli port in Ashdod: thousands of mortar shells, ammunition. and six anti-ship missiles. According to IDF forces the anti-ship missiles found may have significantly shifted the regional balance of power in favor of the terror organizations. These missiles could have been used to threaten Israeli Navy ships, civilian ships, and gas reserves off the coast of Israel.
In addition, Iranian documents found along with the weaponry including a missile identification manual written in Persian containing emblems of the Iranian government, point to the involvement and cooperation between Iran and Syria to further arm terrorist organizations.
The video includes interviews with Rami Ben Yehuda, the deputy commander of the israeli Navy, Lt. General Benjamin Gantz, Chief of the General Staff, Admiral Eliezer Marom, the commander of the Israeli Navy as well as the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Natanyayu.
I was sent this video link via email this morning and just had to put it up for you to see. Since Israel has been skewered by the international media, is appears these folks took to YouTube to get the message out and tell the truth about what is going on in the Middle East today. Sung to the tune of “We are the World” here are some of the lines from the video.
We Con the world…..We con the people…..We’ll make them all believe…….The IDF is Jack the Ripper
The name of the video, called “Flotilla Choir presents: We Con the World” was uploaded yesterday and has already gone viral and totaled more than 118,000. I can only imagine this number is going to jump in the coming days.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Neyanyahu today defended his country’s need for security.
The television address, which I linked below, should be seen and heard by everyone.
Netanyahu said, in part: “Israel simply cannot permit the free flow of weapons and war materials to Hamas from the sea. I would go further than that. Israel cannot permit Iran to establish a Mediterranean port a few dozen kilometers from Tel Aviv and from Jerusalem.”
He added later in the speech:
“For this and for many ever reasons, we have the right to inspect cargo heading into Gaza.”
If you read yesterday’s blog, you learned and watched videos Pro-Palestinian protestors attempting to break the Israel Defense Force (IDF) blockade against ships sailing for Gaza. It did not take long but I just learned via an email that a new protest is scheduled to take place at UC Irvine today in about 90 minutes. Called “Gaza Freedom Flotilla: a UCI PROTEST Emergency Response, the gathering is scheduled to take place at the UCI flagpoles at noon.
On another, but related note…..
From a media standpoint, I also just learned that Israel Consul General Jacob Dayan will be featured on AirTalk with Larry Mantle – KPCC 89.3 FM LIVE today at 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time. The Consul General will provide accurate information about the Gaza flotilla situation and take listeners’ questions. You can listen to it live here
Lastly, IDF forces are seen unloading the humanitarian cargo from the Gaza Flotilla and bringing the aid through the Kerem Shalom crossing. The video is dated June 1, 2010… You can watch it here for yourself
By now, you may have heard that the Israeli military stopped a Palestinian bound ship and 10 people have been reportedly killed.
Here are the facts and a few videos worth watching……
• Earlier today, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) intercepted six ships attempting to break the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip
• The intercept took place after numerous warnings from Israel and the Israel Navy that were issued prior to the action. The Israel Navy requested the ships to redirect toward Ashdod, where they would be able to unload their cargo which would then be transferred to Gaza over land after undergoing security inspections. The IDF stressed that the passengers could then return to their point of departure on the same vessels.
• During the interception of the ships, the demonstrators onboard attacked the IDF naval personnel with live gunfire as well as light weaponry including knives, crowbars and clubs. The demonstrators had clearly prepared weapons in advance for this specific purpose.
• According to reports from sea, on board the flotilla that was seeking to break the maritime closure on the Gaza Strip, IDF forces apprehended two violent activists holding pistols. These militants apparently grabbed the pistols from IDF forces and opened fire on the soldiers.
• The activists were carrying 10,000 tons of reported aid to Gaza. Israel provides 15,000 tons of aid weekly to Gaza.
A Few Additional facts:
• A number of Israeli naval personnel were injured, some from gunfire and others from knives and crowbars. Two of the soldiers are moderately wounded and the remainder sustained light injuries.
• All of the injured, Israelis and foreigners, are currently being evacuated by a fleet of IDF helicopters to hospitals in Israel.
• Reports from IDF forces on the scene are that some of the participants onboard the ships had planned a lynch-mob attack, using lethal force on the boarding forces.
This is another event I want to make you aware of this weekend. Shevet Tapuz-The Israeli Scouts of Orange County, in partnership with Jewish Federation Orange County and the Merage Jewish Community Center, present the annual observance of Yom HaZikaron, the remembrance day for the fallen of Israel’s wars and terror attacks, this Sunday, April 18th at 7:30pm in the Myers Theater. Reservations are not required; the event is free of charge and open to the community. The program will be conducted in English and Hebrew.
When this annual ceremony comes around, I cannot help but think of my time in Israel. I remember the first time I ever attended the ceremony — I was in Jerusalem and did not speak a lick of Hebrew. The lack of language skills did not impact my understanding of the ceremony. In Israel The somber event, with sad music on the radio, and moving ceremonies that recall the country’s fallen soldiers is immediately followed the next day with Yom Ha-Atzmaut or Israel independence day. It makes both holidays that much more impactful.
The local Orange County celebration of Israel Independence Day or 2010 Israel Expo is a free community-wide celebration scheduled for May 2nd, but more about that in another post.
If you live in Southern California and were in need of something interesting to do last night, you should have been at a program called “Speak Out.” The free program, put on by The Israel Center & Rose Project of Jewish Federation Orange County, featured two Israeli soldiers who recounted their personal experiences of serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) including the 2009 attack on Hamas in Gaza.
SWU has four soldiers on a campus-community tour in Seattle, Portland, Silicon Valley, New York, Philadelphia, Connecticut, Chicago and Wisconsin.
I was moved by Inon Tagner, one of the soldiers who said att he beginning of the talk, “Today I was at the UC Irvine campus and I was visiting with the students there. I must tell you after hearing them tell us about what is going on, I think you folks have it worse here than we have in Israel. Tagner went on to talk about, as a leader for a group of soldiers in Israel, having to attend nine funerals in one day after his unit was attacked defending Israel. He went on to explain about his experience on the UC Irvine campus today. “Today, I was accused by a Muslim student, that Israeli’s steal the organs of Palestinians.”
What happened next, at that point he pulled out his wallet for the audience at the Jewish Federation on Wednesday night and showed all of us what he showed the UCI student. “Why would I steal organs when I am an organ donor and if something should happen to me…..”
He then made his point to the student this way. Tagner added, ” What if I were to call you a pedophile. You know someone who harms young children? The student responded. That’s absurd, the student replied. Exactly. Now you know how I feel about your statement.”
Just as moving as a Palestinian resident among the audience. He began by getting up and shaking both soldiers hands. He not only asked questions but made an important comment. He said, “Everyone needs to start with peace in their home. Everyone has a responsibility, especially on the Palestinian side — We must educate our kids.”
Enough of me trying to retell the story. Here are a few short clips from Inon Tagner.