Gilad Shalit’s father praises LA Mayor Villaraigosa in Boiling Point interview


Zev Hurwitz

DEAD-SETt: Opposite Netanyahu’s residence, the Gilad Shalit volunteer-run headquarters tent (left) sits adjacent Noam and Aviva Shalit’s tent (right), which they will be camping out in every night until their son’s release.

By Zev Hurwitz, Editor-in-Chief

Noam Shalit, father of the kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, will not stand for Israel’s inaction regarding his son’s four-year captivity.

So he’ll sit down for a bit.

After 11 days of marching cross-country from their family home in the Upper Galilee, Noam and his wife Aviva settled July 9 in a tent in front of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem, and announced they intend to stay – camping out every night — until their son is released.

At around the same time in Los Angeles, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signed a measure declaring June 25 “Gilad Shalit Day” here, to mark the fourth anniversary of the soldier’s kidnapping by Hamas.  The resolution, proposed by City Councilman Paul Koretz, was presented to Consul General of Israel Jacob Dayan on June 30.

“We have spoken to the mayor of Los Angeles, who has chosen to support our cause,” Noam Shalit told The Boiling Point during a brief interview in his tent in Jerusalem July 13.

Then, motioning to the Prime Minister’s residence behind him, Mr. Shalit added: “We are not so lucky with this guy.”

The plight of Sgt. Shalit has shaken many throughout the world, and at Shalhevet, a 2009 blood drive was held in his honor along with Shalit themed days and rallies. Many area synagogues read aloud a prayer each Shabbat praying for his swift release.

“As a parent of a 19-year-old myself, I cannot fathom the anguish the Shalit family has gone through – not for even one minute, let alone for four years,” said Councilman Koretz, who represents West Los Angeles including Shalhevet, in a June 30 press release regarding the Shalit measure. (

As part of a renewed effort to free Staff Sergeant Shalit, his family — who have dual Israeli and French citizenship – also enlisted the support of French president Nicholas Sarkozy, as well as that of scores of other leaders around the world — including Mayor Villaraigosa.

In Israel, they were joined on their march by thousands of volunteers and many reporters, reaching Jerusalem on July 8  where a rally was held in Independence Park, just outside the Old City. A portable stage, assembled only hours before the event, faced the large crowd of supporters hoisting signs, banners, and flags with Gilad’s name and face on them.

One banner, apparently addressed to the Israeli government, read: “You gave in to bribery, to Turkey and to Gaza. But what about Gilad?”

Sergeant Shalit’s mother, Aviva, made the opening remarks of the two hour-long event filled with rising and established Israeli musical artists, fellow soldiers and ex-government officials all present to rile up support for Gilad.

“He’s been through four years of hell!” Aviva Shalit shouted in Hebrew at the crowd, estimated by local police at more than 10,000. “It’s time to tell the government, ‘Enough!’”

The rally rekindled a national sentiment calling for Shalit’s release; he has been held by Hamas in Palestinian territory since June 2006 and not even the International Red Cross has been allowed to visit him.  Fresh bumper stickers and T-shirts announcing “Gilad is still alive” were distributed around the country over the summer, while lime-green ribbons became a national apparel to support him.

“Bibi [Netanyahu] cannot hide from us anymore,” Mrs. Shalit declared. “Now is the time to act.”

In Jerusalem, adjacent to the Shalits’ tent, a volunteer-run headquarters tent for the Gilad campaign was erected that began operation in October last year in that same location. The volunteers collected signatures for petitions and distributed bumper stickers and information.

A day counter hangs above the tent entrance announcing how long Shalit has spent in captivity. Walls, poles and fences in the neighborhood surrounding the tents were plastered with signs demanding the IDF soldier’s release.

“This is a problem which is affecting all of Israel,” said Ruti Bluhm, an older woman who spends her afternoons volunteering in the tent. “We hope that this will not turn into another ‘Ron Arad’ incident.

Ron Arad, another kidnapped soldier albeit by Hezbollah, has been missing in action since 1986. He is presumed to be dead but Israeli authorities are not sure.

Ruti, who knows the Shalit family personally, explained that Noam Shalit planned to meet with Netanyahu soon after the family’s arrival in Jerusalem. Netanyahu had been in the United States, meeting with President Obama, during their march.

Debate revived this summer throughout Israel over whether or not to engage in a prisoner swap with Hamas for Shalit’s freedom. Recent polls have shown that around 75 percent of Israelis would support such a swap, which reportedly would involve releasing over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners and terrorists. (,7340,L-3653393,00.html) Some Israelis are opposed to such a trade because of the consequences of allowing terrorists to walk the streets again. “

We can’t allow terrorists to strike again,” said a masked counter-protester across the street from the tent July 8. “Gilad needs to be freed by military forces.”

Jewish law has also been brought into the discussion. Yaakov Ben-Yehuda, who works near the Prime Minister’s residence, said he is undecided.

“There are halachic issues with both sides of the issue,” said Mr. Ben-Yehuda near his home. “While it is a mitzvah to redeem a captive, it could also transgress the law when it would put people’s lives at stake.”

Sparking much controversy, especially among Sgt. Shalit’s supporters, Prime Minister Netanyahu has said that Israel has limits to what it will bargain for Gilad’s release.

“Israel is prepared to pay a heavy price for Gilad Shalit’s freedom; but not any price,” said Netanyahu in a July 1 press conference ( “We will continue to make every effort to bring Gilad home quickly. But this will be done while maintaining the security of Israel’s citizens.”

Anti-Netanyahu sentiment runs high inside the tents. One volunteer said she had given up on the prime minister’s involvement all together.

“We don’t listen to him anymore,” said Fortuna VaCaspi, a former resident of Los Angeles who now lives inside Jerusalem “We listen to God now.”

This story won a Certificate of Merit for News Writing in the 2011 Gold Circle Award competition of the Columbia Scholastic Press Association.