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I Have two Sons and Gilad Shalit
January 21 2009

I have two sons. They are Israeli born, bred and raised. The oldest, Yair, finished his mandatory army service in November. When the war broke out some 4 weeks ago "we" weren't too surprised when he got 'the call'. I should correct myself. He wasn't surprised. As a mother, having your child called up to war –even in Israel- is always a surprise. It's the kind of surprise that hits you hard in the stomach and knocks the breath right out of you. It's the kind of surprise that hits you hard over the head, leaving you dizzy and unable to think a single clear thought, actually erasing everything, leaving a dark hole of worry filled with painful memories of the last war.-
The last war, or the Lebanese War II – a phone call from Yair, a young soldier boy of 18 years called into action. Yair, "Hi mom, I am fine. I am just calling to let you know that I will be out of cell phone range for awhile, so don't worry. I'll call you when I can. I am fine. I will be fine." – This of course was code for, 'I'm going into battle in Lebanon. I am prepared. I am ready. Don't Worry.'
And now back to the present 'conflict', 'Cast Lead' or for most of us the Gaza War. The justification for this war is just not a matter for discussion in the average Israeli household. My home is no different. Our beliefs are clear and definite. We had no alternative. The Hamas, the rulers of Gaza are, as they themselves define themselves, enemies of the state of Israel. The news broadcasts for the past 8 years, reporting rocket fire into Israeli towns, from Gaza, after we withdrew, after we pulled our civilians from their homes and left that land to the Palestinians to rule by their own chosen governing body – the Hamas. The thought of waking up everyday not knowing if today another rocket will find its way onto my home, my work place, the supermarket, my child's school…
And then there is still Gilad Shalit. Always the name Gilad Shalit brings the feeling of darkness and an ice cold chill to my bones. For many mothers and fathers of soldiers here in Israel, there has not been a moment without the awareness of the absence of Gilad Shalit. He was abducted some 957 days ago –before the beginning of Lebanese War II. He was abducted from the Israeli side of the border with Gaza. He was, at the time, a relatively new soldier. He was fresh to the army, patrolling the border, protecting us. He's the same age as my son, Yair.
Gilad Shalit.
In the time since his abduction, many things have happened in this country and in my life. The Lebanese War II ended. Our soldiers came home; even Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, abducted by the Hezbollah came home. They came home in caskets, but they came home. My son finished his mandatory army service and started a job. I lost a job and started anther. I got divorced and remarried. Prime Minister Sharon went into a coma; Prime Minister Elmert was brought up on charges. Traffic accidents, economic troubles, celebrations and funerals…The Gaza War began, Yair went into reserves, the Gaza War ended, and Yair came home. Gilad Shalit.
Throughout all of this, Gilad Shalit remains a symbol of our collective failure…Every Friday morning for the past six months I stand with a group of 3 or 4 other ''parents' of soldiers" on the corner of the main road entering the town of Binyamina handing out stickers, and yellow ribbons, ''Gilad Shalit Lives" and "remember our prisoner of war, our son", to every car passing by. Gilad Shalit. He is said to be held in a tunnel somewhere in Gaza. 957 days in a tunnel in Gaza. No visits from the Red Cross or any humanitarian groups allowed.
Letters, demonstrations, protests, marches, phone calls, emails, websites….Gilad Shalit!!!! His name still echoes louder then ever. He is not home. He is being held by unnamed, enemies of Israel. Gilad Shalit: our collective failure; their cruelty.

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Comments from Our Readers

  "You have managed to paint feelings with your words. May Gilad return home soon to his family." - Trish, January 22 2009 - reply
  "Thanks Beth, for telling your story. I also live in Israel, and what you described rings true. And I believe you are correct that almost all Israeli citizens believe in the justice of the Gaza war, and yearn to see Gilad back home with his family." - DannyG, January 22 2009 - reply
  "As a mother of future soldiers i was very touched by your words. Thanks for writing this" - Nicky, January 25 2009 - reply
  "כן , גלעד שליט גלעד שליט כל כך הרבה שומעים את השם ושום דבר לא זז בעניין וזה באמת הופך לסוג של כישלון חרוץ אבל עדיין יש תקווה ותודה על הכתיבה שעושה משהו בלב ומוציאה מההתעסקות העצמית ." - אלכס, January 22 2009 - reply
  "It's very hard for me to hear you speak/write about your Yair, because my Yair will never stop being a 19 year old soldier who died in a car accident. However, getting beyond that, your story is very impelling for anyone who is a parent. Yes, things happen. Yes, cruelty is a human trait. Yes, if we all do something positive, there will be a lot more positive energy in the world. Keep giving out those ribbons and keep writing!" - Judy H., January 24 2009 - reply
  "I saw you in shul; I saw your face and my heart bled for you as I sat with my 4 little ones who must some day do their duty. My heart still bleeds for Gilad Shalit and his family." - Jacqui Green, January 26 2009 - reply
  "The sorry about Gilad Shalit's captivity is shared by all and his captivity must not be forgotten. But what do you propose that Israel do? Do you want to bear personally the consequences of your views should they come to pass? What can you do that is constructive? Emil Fackenheim wrote, have one more child than you would otherwise have planned. C." - Charles Arymowicz, January 26 2009 - reply
  "Thank you for sharing and informing.We in the US need to learn, need to know.May he return soon. And may your words keep coming." - Barb, January 27 2009 - reply
  "Hi Beth, I'm a friend of your Mom's going all the way back to elementary school. You were a very little girl the last time I saw you. Your article makes the situation in Israel very real. I don't know if I could be as brave as you are. To have a child facing those dangers is difficult to imagine. We have newscasters in the U.S. who say, "Israel's reaction is an over reaction, after all the bombs didn't kill anyone!" How infuriating. Suppose Mexico were bombing Arizona every day. I can't imagine our government standing by and allowing it without retaliation. On our trip to Israel in April, we visited the military cemetery in Jerusalem. Our guide showed us where his nephew is buried and said, "There isn't a family in Israel that is not in mourning for a child or a cousin or a nephew or a granddaughter. We pray for you every day. May you never be counted in that group of mourners. Phyllis " - Phyllis Krebs, January 29 2009 - reply

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