Gilad Shalit is 25 years old. He was born and raised in Israel. Like most Israeli teenagers he enlisted in the IDF after high school. While in the Army he was captured by Hamas and held captive for over five years. He was released on the 18th of October, 2011. But you know that already.
What you don’t know is where exactly he was these past five years. You don’t know how he occupied his time. You don’t know what he ate, or how he slept, or how often he thought of his mother. You don’t know how he tracked time. Did it feel like five years to him? Or 50? How often did he think about home? Was it every hour? Every minute? Every second? Was it really every second?
You don’t know if he’ll ever be the same again. You don’t know how he’ll ever be the same again. You don’t know if he looked composed in those videos, or dazed. You don’t know if he’s having trouble sleeping. You don’t know if he’ll need therapy. You don’t know how much of it he’s processed. You don’t know if you could’ve survived what he did. You don’t know how he survived.
You don’t know his views on terrorism. What does he think, intellectually, about Israel negotiating with terrorists? How does he feel, psychologically, about prisoner swaps? Does he think, in general, that 1,027 prisoners is a lot to trade for just one? Does he think, specifically, that exceptions can be made? You don’t know if he even thinks of Hamas as terrorists.
You don’t know his favorite color. You don’t know his favorite food. You don’t know whether he likes to shower in the morning, or at night. You don’t know what songs got stuck in his head. Because everybody, inevitably, gets a song stuck in their head. You hope it wasn’t Sister Sledge.
You don’t know if he knew, in captivity, how big of an icon he’d become. You don’t know if he knows now. Did he ever try to escape, or did he accept that as impossible? Did he expect the IDF to come find him and save him? Did they let him down? How did he feel in those fatigues after his release? Did it itch? Was it too big? Too clean? Too heavy? You don’t know if he even wanted to put them on. You don’t know if he hates the Army. You don’t know if he regrets serving. You don’t know if you want to know.
You do know that seeing him alive meant a lot to you. You do know how important it was, for you, to see him walking, talking, smiling. You have no way of truly knowing how important that was to him.
You agree that this deal had to happen, but you don’t know what’s in store for the future of Israel. You don’t know how many of those 1,027 prisoners will return to violence. You don’t know how many softened in prison. You don’t know how many hardened. You don’t know how many are just violent and won’t change.
You know about Guantanamo Bay. You don’t know how that applies. You say there’s a fundamental difference in approach between protecting America’s borders and protecting Israel’s. You want to believe there’s a difference between an American prison in Cuba and an Israeli prison in Palestine. But from what you hear on the news, from friends, from people whose opinions you value—sometimes you don’t know. A picture says a thousand words, so what does this one say? To you? To Aziz across the street? What does Gilad think? Is this the kind of stuff he thought about, alone in that room?
You don’t know what he’ll do next. Will he become an activist? An agent for peace? Will he try to live a quiet life? You can’t blame him for wanting that. Will he start showing up on reality TV? You can’t blame him for anything.
Is there anyone you can blame? Is blame something we should be looking for? How does Gilad feel? You don’t know how he feels. You don’t know what he thinks. Sometimes you want to know, but you don’t know if trying to find out impedes his attempt at a normal life.
You do know the difference, though, between right and wrong, good and evil. Or at least you think you do.
You don’t know if Gilad agrees.
Let’s keep it that way.
Filed Under: Politics & News