As an Israeli: Thoughts About Our Lost Brother Gilad Shalit

This is a guest post by Roni Levin, St. Paul shlicha (Israeli emissary to St. Paul on behalf of the United Jewish Fund and Council). She was born in 1984 in Israel and  does not like hummus.
As Israelis, we sometimes take a hard view of the challenges that our country places before us.
Sometimes we become apathetic or cynical.
Then, every time something terrible happens, we call all our friends and family to check that everyone is okay. If you switch on an Israeli radio station you’ll hear a quiet and mellow music. But by the end of the day we will go back to our own business. Otherwise we cannot cope. We often keep the crying and feeling to the memorial days.
In the past five years Gilad Shalit has become one of us, has become a part of all our families. Gilad was captured on June 25, 2006 by Hamas terrorists. That day began as normal but soon Israel was involved in a major military operation.
On that day, I was a few months away from discharge from the Israeli Army. Since then I have managed to graduate, work in three different jobs, rent an apartment and buy a car.
But Gilad stayed 19. A soldier who was unknown suddenly became the brother of us all.
I admit that like with most events, I didn’t think much about the fact that a soldier from the Army of which I served – a family member – is not with me around the table.
I continued my life as an Israeli. But I could not ignore Gilad Shalit as a shlicha. A few days ago when I was looking for pictures of Gilad to make a “Support the Shalit Family” display board, something spiked through the thick layer of my “Sabra” skin. I could not look at those pictures and not be sad. As an Israeli, something changed in me. The cactus spikes suddenly melted and the apathy and cynicism moved aside.
Last week was another ordinary week when suddenly one of my friends sent me a message to open Haaretz news. I went to the website and tears flooded my eyes. My family member is coming home after more than five years.
As I was always taught, the Israel Defense Forces, the Israeli government and the Jewish people are not abandoning the wounded out in the field.
Some would say it took too long, some might say the price was too high. But today that is not important to me. The main thing is our brother is coming back and will sit with us around the table.
This holiday he will celebrate in the Sukkah with his family in Israel.
(Photo: vrider)