Five Years and Four Months Later, A Homecoming

If you’re a regular visitor to my blog, you’ll certainly have noticed the banner over there in the top right corner of my blog’s sidebar. Sargent Gilad Shalit was kidnapped by Hamas on June 25th, 2006, when he was a 19 year-old corporal on active duty in the IDF. In Israel army service is compulsory for all young men and women and their tour of service ranges from 18 months to 3 years, followed by a lengthy reserve duty.

Gilad was not in Gaza when Hamas kidnapped him, he was within Israel’s borders at a military base. The terrorists who took him wounded from his tank were members of Hamas’ military wing. The other 2 troops in Gilad’s tank, including his commander, died, 5 others were wounded in the attack. Over the five-year period of his captivity, there were no visits from the Red Cross to ensure that his humanitarian rights were upheld, no routine proof of life given.

Until now, all the efforts to secure Gilad’s release have failed. In exchange for his return this upcoming week, Israel has agreed to release more than a thousand Palestinian prisoners, including some 450 terrorists who have directly caused the deaths of both Israelis and foreigners. They include Nasser Batima, jailed for planning a hotel bombing in Netanya during Passover in 2002 in which 30 Israelis were killed as well as Ahlam Tamimi, the Palestinian woman who drove the suicide bomber who attacked a Jerusalem pizza restaurant in 2001, killing 15 people. Also included on the list of those to be released are those who participated in the 2000 “lynching” in Ramallah of two Israeli reserve soldiers and those responsible for the abduction and murder of soldiers Nahshon Waxman, Avi Sasportas, Ilan Sa’adon and Shahar Simani.

There is not an Israeli who does not understand Aviva and Noam Shalit and the anguish they have suffered during their son’s 5-year captivity. And yet, while we rejoice with them in Gilad’s hopeful return, we cannot but wonder how long before someone else’s son or daughter becomes the next kidnap victim or the next victim of a terrorist act at the hands of one of those released in the exchange.

So while Hamas will be joyful and welcome their sons and daughters home with a hero’s welcome, Israelis will remain subdued. We have too much experience with the promises of terrorists to do otherwise.

News of Hamas-Israel prisoner deal met with apathy in Ramallah
Bereaved families petition High Court against Shalit deal

Update October 18, 2011:
09:10 – The news media have been talking non-stop since early this morning and as of now the pace has picked up to a frenzy. Still no sight of Gilad other than reports of his having been transferred to Egypt and the Rafiah border crossing. Celebrations in Ramallah, Um el Fahum and Gaza. Reports of calls for another kidnapping. Haniyeh confused why the world is celebrating the return of Shalit but not the Palestinian prisoners. East Jerusalem residents are demonstrating in the streets with Hamas flags.
09:30 – Two female terrorists, one mentioned above, have refused to leave the Red Cross bus so that they are not deported to Gaza.
09:45 – IDF confirms that Gilad has been transferred to Egypt.
09:55 – Thanks to the intervention of Egypt, one of the female terrorists will be deported directly to Egypt rather than Gaza. Not clear what is the fate of the 2nd female terrorist.
10:05 –  The prisoner exchange continues and you are invited to follow the developments on Ha’aretz’s Live Blog.

AMEN! and later today, after so many, many days, my #giladshalit banner comes down.