Coming together to honor Shalit's return

By Michal Kohane, Director of the Israel Center

Michal Kohane

Michal Kohane

On the morning of October 18, following our JCF community gathering to honor and celebrate Gilad Shalit’s return after 1941 days in captivity, I took off the yellow ribbon I’ve been wearing since our visit to the Shalit family tent this past summer. While there, we added our words of prayer to the long wall opposite the prime minister’s home in Jerusalem already covered with messages from people around the world and decorated with yellow ribbons; we sat with Noam Shalit, Gilad’s father. We cried. And we argued.

I grew up in a complex country. At a young age you are introduced to the most extreme dilemmas in life. In 1972 Israeli athletes were held hostage at the Munich Olympics and were murdered in spite of rescue efforts. In 1976, an Air France flight was hijacked and its passengers freed in an amazing operation all the way in Uganda. It’s not all explainable: Some things work, others don’t. Like David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister said, “In Israel, in order to be a realist, you have to believe in miracles.” We were pretty sure that in order to see Gilad back alive and well, we might need a miracle. Or, alternatively, a really crazy deal with one of our worst enemies. So we argued some more.

Some of us said: give back any terrorists they want for none of them is worth even one Jewish child! Others said: do not give back terrorists “with blood on their hands” for they don’t deserve to see the light of day and they endanger our lives. Some said, but then we’ll never see Gilad again! Other said, tough luck, such is the price of homeland and freedom. Inside the tent, there was a frame with an outline of Gilad’s face. Instead of his full face, there was a mirror where you could see yourself. Above it, it said: “The price is still too high?”

Israel might be a complex country but its core messages are clear, and one of them is just this: You don’t leave a soldier, your brother, your child, your best friend, your spouse, your neighbor’s great-grandson, behind. This is what family is all about and this is what makes us who we are. We can continue to do it, whatever that “it” is, because from day one we know that if something happens, anything, someone will come for us, beyond enemy lines, anywhere in the world, all the way to Entebe, Uganda, if needed, and definitely right around the corner, to Gaza. It’s heartbreaking that it took that long. We’re thankful it wasn’t any longer. 

The sad thing is – we’re not the only ones who know this. Those who stand against us know it too. On any day, they might use our values against us. Still, that’s no reason for us to give up those values. Giving them up means losing who we are. I’m keeping the yellow ribbon as a souvenir. It reminds me that life doesn’t come in comfortable, neat, easily digestible little packages; that I belong to a remarkable People; and that someday, when someone will ask, ‘where were you when,’ I will remember that in spite of the pain, distance, complexity and arguments, we spent this historic day here together, commemorating Gilad Shalit’s welcome back home.

Links and more resources Community members and local officials gathered at Federation to honor the return of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Mayor Edwin Lee and Israeli Consul General Akiva Tor were among several distinguished local leaders who attended and expressed solidarity with both the local Jewish community and the people of Israel on this significant day. To see pictures from the morning please visit the Israel Center Facebook album or watch the local ABC news coverage.
Categories: Israel, Videos


October 18, 2011


The Federation