On Tuesday, as we were walking to our last class of the day, we were stopped by Mr. Shapiro, Dean of Students at GOA. "Did you hear my announcement?" he asked, "Netanyahu announced a huge advancement in the Gilad Shalit compromise; he could be home within days." Rarely have we heard the name Gilad in a sentence so close to the phrase "home within days."
Ever since the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit in 2006, Golda Och Academy students have not gone without recognizing and discussing the story. The issue of whether or not Gilad should be returned was constantly debated. We could never reach an agreement; is it fair to put millions of Israelis in danger for one man? Some of us said yes; Israel has the responsibility of returning every soldier, dead or alive, back to Israel. We also learn in our Tanach and Rabbinics classes that saving one life is like saving the world. However, others said no; regardless of whatever responsibilities Israel has towards its soldiers, putting millions in danger for one person is too risky. We started with weekly updates to the middle school and high school Israel Clubs, leading up to the distribution of yellow ribbons, which adorn most students' backpacks and lockers, and amounting to students visiting the actual Gilad Shalit tent in Jerusalem, while on Na'ale or Neshama. Our 9th graders wrote letters to Gilad’s parents expressing our love and concern for Gilad. We have also had an ongoing count of Gilad's days in captivity on our daily slideshow, and have handed out numerous "גילעד עדיין חי", "Gilad is still alive" stickers.
The students at our school have created such a strong relationship with the whole crisis and feel personally connected to Gilad. Not only have we created a personal association with Gilad, but also with his parents and fellow supporters. As a club, we've read Aviva and Noam Shalit's cries for help, and have shared similar stories of other captives and soldiers with the rest of the High School. We also took the time to read through Gilad’s children’s book, “The Shark and the Fish”, and a song composed by Camp Masad in Gilad's honor. Danielle R., a senior and co-president of the High School Israel Club, noted that the Gilad bumper sticker earned a prestigious spot on her wall of photos next to her bed at camp. Others have also decorated their water bottles or lunch bags with the sticker, serving as a constant reminder of the ordeal.
To be honest, some of us at Golda Och have recently lost hope in the homecoming of Gilad. After being gone for more than five years, we could no longer imagine the day when this character, Gilad Shalit, would become a real person in our Jewish American eyes. Our hearts, as well as our Facebook news feeds, have graciously been filled with new-found hope and curiosity.
Whatever way the story ends, this whole journey has been remarkable. Through the kidnapping of one Israeli soldier, thousands of Jewish communities around the world have come together and established an unmatchable international coalition in support of Gilad and Israel. GOA junior Rafaella S. mentioned how the constant presence of the story has served as a major focal point for Israel supporters everywhere, and the impending arrival of Gilad positively portrays Israel's commitment and close relationships to all of its citizens. We know the fight is far from over, and continue to pray in the hopes of Gilad's return. Carmelle B., a junior and secretary of the High School Israel Club says, “We have worked nonstop over the past five years spreading awareness and gaining support for his release. It is truly amazing to see this dream come true.”