|Written by Ruby Ong|
17 October 2011
Good news this time
I was in Washington, DC last week when I heard the news. I was rushing to a meeting with senior leaders from our flagship grantee, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel when, all of the sudden, all of our cell phones started ringing at once. Since this is a phenomenon that often follows terror attacks, I winced as I answered, preparing myself for bad news. But this time, the news was good. After five long years, Gilad Shalit was to be freed from captivity.
It would be hard to overstate the extent to which millions of Israelis followed Shalit’s ordeal; he became almost a surrogate son for the entire nation, a symbol of sacrifice and solidarity. Winning his release and return was understood as a critical part of the social contract that had to be honored. Support for the captured soldier and the family that advocated tirelessly for his return united the vast majority of Israelis, and transcended political and social boundaries. It was no surprise that “Free Gilad” signs were a common sight at this summer’s massive social justice protests in the streets of Israel’s cities. And it was no surprise that the Israelis with whom I was standing when I got the call were moved, almost to the point of speechlessness, by the power of the news of his impending release.
It is true, of course, that this is Israel, and nothing is ever simple. We all know that the political questions surrounding this deal will continue to be debated. The impact on Israeli security and on the peace process may well prove to be significant. But the time for that debate is not now. Today, as Israel prepares to welcome its son home, we in the NIF family join in the celebration.