Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Welcome Home Gilad....עם ישראל חי



It’s been five years.

We’ve been waiting for today for five years.

The entire country has been holding its breath since his capture. Gilad Shalit… you couldn’t - you still can’t - walk a mile in Israel without seeing a sign with his face on it. I’ve attended rallies and marches, I’ve hung posters and signs with the words “גלעד עדיין חי” screaming at passerby in those blue letters we’ve all come to recognize. I have yellow ribbons in my room at university and at home, on every backpack and purse I own. I’ve visited the tent, bought tshirts, heard his parents speak. I’ve discussed and debated the prisoner trade with all of my friends, with a vehemence that suggests my opinion makes a difference. And every time I saw his name, I’d think to myself, “What if he was my brother?”.

Today, after months and months of negotiations, of protests, of his parents fighting tirelessly for his release – our Gilad finally came home.

So now what happens? The nation gets their son back, the Shalit family can begin to heal, and life goes on. But what about us, the ones who fought for him in our prayers, the ones who marched and yelled and cared and cried? This should not just be a moment in history that passes us by, a happy ending to a sad story. We must take this personally. We must allow it to affect our lives in a meaningful way – all of the pain we felt for the past half a decade cannot be forgotten because he has come home. We have to use the pain we felt for Gilad. Use it in a way that will make this all worth it.

Gilad sat in a Hamas prison cell for five years. I haven’t spoken to him, but I can imagine that all he wanted to do was come back home, come back to Israel. For Gilad, we needed to release over 1,000 terrorists so that he could be back here.

And now I am speaking to you, Jews in America. I want to ask you this.

How many terrorists will we need to release for you to come back? How long do you want to sit in confinement and pray until you get brought to Israel? Come home! Come back while you can, come while you’re free, come at a time that no one is stopping you! Come back to this country, to our country that needs you. Look at what we have done – an illogical trade of a thousand prisoners for one boy, for one son of one family. I didn’t know Aviva or Noam Shalit personally. I’ve never had a one on one conversation with either of them. But they are part of my nation, part of my people. And when they hurt, we all hurt. The only way we can survive is if we band together, if we all come together as one. Come home!

Let this be more than a homecoming. We can transform it into a catalyst. Please let us tell our children that this is when it all changed. That when Gilad came home, עם ישראל came home, because we finally realized just how much we all need each other.