In the midst of the current political chaos in Israel, it is important to recognize the ever persevering spirit of the people of Israel. A unifying force has been the return of Gilad Shalit.
Students were brought to tears by news shared during last year’s town meeting on October 18; Gilad Shalit was coming home. After years of prayer, protest and even activism by Milken students, the dream of his arrival finally became a reality.
Last year at this time, Israel feared a breakout of war, terrorism or the capturing of more soldiers. For many people, the exchange of 1,027 terrorists for one soldier seemed like a price far too dangerous to pay.
A year later, Israel has yet to see any of these fears transpire, at least not as direct results of the Shalit exchange. Shalit’s return has proven positive for the country, as Israel has not experienced any direct consequences of the decision thus far.
Benji Davis ‘05 who made aliyah and served in the IDF provided an Israeli perspective.
“There haven’t been exceptional terrorist attacks aside from the usual rocket fire. We have yet to see any changed political circumstances,” Davis said.
Of course, it must be taken into consideration that there is secrecy behind the closed doors of the Knesset.
“In my opinion the general public cannot really determine the impact of the exchange,” Davis said.
Even Shalit’s most recent interview, which was aired on Israeli television on the anniversary of his return, was vague regarding details of his captivity. While Shalit spoke openly about his personal progress, he neglected to share many details of his time in holding. Most likely for matters of national security, things have been especially tight-lipped.
Despite the still cautious and apprehensive atmosphere, the anniversary was greeted in Israel with a flood of media attention and buzz.
“It was a huge deal,” Davis said. “Gilad’s face was on the front page of the newspaper.”
Similar to American recollections of the day JFK was shot, Israelis reminisced about where they were when they heard the news.
“Last year’s atmosphere was not repeated, but the day was definitely marked and celebrated,” Davis said.
This year at Milken, the vibe on campus was celebratory, with the amphitheater and students dressed in blue and white. A message on the intercom encouraged students to take a moment to reflect on Shalit’s return and be grateful for freedom.
Students spent the day proud to be Jewish, and counting their blessings.
“It wasn’t just the abduction of an Israeli soldier; it was the kidnapping of a young boy. Politics aside, I think everyone can agree that Gilad’s return home has been a blessing,” Davis said.