Blood drive mobilizes students for Shalit

By Jeremy Lowe, Community Editor

During most school years, members of the Shalhevet community give blood because they want to help save lives. This year their motivation to donate was two-fold: to save lives and to show solidarity with kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

With Shalit nearing 1,000 days in captivity in the hands of Hamas, this year’s annual Red Cross blood drive March 24 was dedicated to an effort to press for the Red Cross to visit him, something Hamas has prevented even though he is required to receive such visits under the Geneva Conventions.

“Not everyone advocates releasing prisoners in exchange for Shalit, but even if you don’t, that doesn’t mean that he is a non-person,” said senior Elana Eden, who ran this year’s drive. “He’s still entitled to his basic rights, which he’s not getting.”

Anyone who donated was given a T-shirt to wear with Gilad Shalit’s picture and a quote from Parshat Kedoshim, in Vayikra. The shirts were designed by sophomore Abbi Kaniel.

“You shall not stand aside while your felllow’s blood is shed,” the design declared in red, quoting Chapter 16 of Vaykira. Underneath that, also in red, the shirts said: “Gilad Shalit needs you. Demand a visit now.”

Donors were invited to “respectfuly engage the nurses and technicians in conversations about Gilad” while their blood donations were progressing, Elana said.

Also, junior Maxwell Rotbart organized lower schoolers to make cut-out Jewish stars to mail to the Red Cross’s international headquarters.

Petitions urging the Red Cross to press Hamas more strongly to allow Shalit to be visited, drafted by students Trevor Brandt-Sarif and Matthew Klein, were out on tables for donors to sign. Elana said three pages of signatures had been filled by the end of the evening.

And participation was up. This year there were 65 donors, of whom 45 turned out to be eligible to give blood, including 15 first-timers. Last year’s blood drive collected 33 pints of blood from 49 people.

Was the Shalit connection the reason?

“I know that it was,” said Elana, “because there were so many kids who wanted to be involved even if they couldn’t donate blood, and they just kept asking if they could do other things, and they would be like, ‘Is the Gilad Shalit thing going to happen?'”

The interest in connecting Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped while on duty near the Gaza border in June 2006,  to the blood drive began as a discussion in Mr. Jason Feld’s Jewish History and Modern Middle East classes. Hamas has not allowed a Red Cross visit, though the organization has been pressuring Hamas to allow visits since 2007.

“It came as a motivation from the assembly with Karnit Goldwasser,” said Mr Feld, referring to the recent visit of the widow of Ehud Goldwasser, who was kidnapped and killed the same month as Shalit. “Students asked her what they could do to help Gilad and she said that we should pressure the Red Cross. We saw this already existing opportunity with the blood drive and decided to use it to make our voices heard.”

Elana was especially pleased with the students’ reaction to this, and to that of the blood drive’s Red Cross staff and technicians.

“I was really touched by the fact that the nurses were not only just nice people, but were interested in Gilad Shalit,” sid Elana. “They were also really attentive to what the students had to say about Gilad.”

Motivations were mixed, with most students coming because they wanted to save lives and most faculty to show solidarity with Shalit.

“I waanted to give blood because there is such a need for blood and there is no alternative to human blod,” said senior Penina Smith. “I am willing to go through a little pain to save lives.”
“We are here to raise awareness about the situation with Gilad Shalit,” said Bat Amit Ilana Berkely, who donated blood with fellow Bat Ami Gila Fisher. “It has been more than 1,000 days since Gilad was captured and the Red Cross hasa  duty to the Jewish people to visit Gilad.”

Even the Red Cross was happy with the turnout.

“A lot of people have donated today,” said Alice Lan, a donor recruitment associate for the American Red Cross. “With the small school size and classes going on, this is a gret turnout.”

The process of giving blood took anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour for some people. Teachers were expedited to the front of the line so they could go back to teach  their classes.

This brought out more than 10 teachers who may not have wanted to wait in line.

“I gave blood because I want to help build up blood banks,” said General Studies Principal Mr. Tranchi. “I am really happy that so many kids are giving blood.”

Students and teachers were able to donate blood through an ALYX machine or through a regular bed donation. The ALYX machine collects two units of processed red blood cells, while the regular blood donation collects a pint of whole blood.

In prior years, the Red Cross required donors to be 17, but this year students who were 16 were allowed to donate with parental consent. Other requirements to donate blood include weight of at least 110 pounds and good health.

Also donating this year were, among others, seniors Aviel Cogan, Sabrina Aziz, Gal Avraham and Deanna Grunfeld; juniors Lexi Gelb and Daniel Goltzer;  Judaic Studies teachers Rabbi Sabo and Rabbi Richler; General Studies teachers Ms. Berkey and Mr. Nguyen; and Mr. Tranchi and his sister.

Asked why he gave, Daniel Goltzer said, “Because I can.”

“Amazing,” he said when asked how he felt afterward. “I felt like I saved someone’s life, and I can’t wait to do it again in 56 days.”