Last Monday night began the celebration of Israel’s 63rd year of Independence since it’s founding in 1948.
A few friends (Ariel came to visit!) and I went to the center of Jerusalem in the Ben Yehuda area to celebrate. It was crazier than New York on New Years. Everyone was out and about, walking around, having fun, and celebrating.
The next day I woke up and got ready to go to a barbecue. Jenn and I made an Asian Quinoa salad with red peppers, mushrooms, onions, and tofu to bring [Look forward to a future food blog entry with the recipe and instructions on how to make it!]
The barbecue was at Jenn and Eli’s friends who has an apartment in the German Colony. He lives on the top floor and has a view overlooking the area which is just beautiful. Every time I am on a balcony like that I realize how important a view can be. Especially crucial to my mornings of drinking my coffee and reading the newspaper.
We hung out, ate delicious food, barbecued (baroor), and I picked some of the students brains on becoming Rabbis. They all are currently finishing up their first year at Hebrew Union College – a Reform Rabbinical school.
After awhile we decided to head back to our apartment, as it felt like the weekend, but in actuality we had work the next day. On our way back we noticed hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people out and about in the parks, barbecuing, socializing, and celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut. It was lovely to see so much nationalistic pride, and everyone coming together in the parks barbecuing as opposed to staying in their backyards.
On the way home Eli and I decided to make a detour and stop at Gilad Shalit’s tent. Although this is a day of celebration, we should also remember those of us that can not celebrate. Gilad Shalit is a 24 year old IDF soldier who was captured by Hamas almost five years (June 25, 2006) ago and has been held hostage in Gaza since then. He is currently standing between two walls and doesn’t even have room to sit. He has been in this position for far too long.
His parents have set up a memorial and protest tent for him in the center of Jerusalem. They sit out there every single day, handing out stickers and ribbons, selling t-shirts, and allowing people to write on the wall for him. But these are all motionless moves I am sure, as their main intention is to advocate to the Knesset to get their son home. While everyone was celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut Gilads dad was in the forefront arguing with the Israeli government to do something about their son.
On the official website that was created for him it says, “Gilad has not been granted any visitation rights by the International Red Cross or any other humanitarian organization, as required by International Law. The Schalit family have tried to send a number of letters, through the International Red Cross. As far the family knows Gilad has only received one letter, which was transferred with the mediation of the French President Nicolas Sarkozy to Khaled Mash’al, Chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau and then to Gilad Schalit.” If you click on the link for this site it tells you ways you can help if you are interested.
The solution to this horrifying situation however, is not that easy. Hamas is asking that in order to return Gilad back to Israel they would like to see the release of hundreds of Palestinians prisoners (the majority of whom are the worst of the worst terrorists) and the deportation of some of them outside the territory controlled by the Palestinian National Authority. In the past when prisoners were released many Israeli citizens were then killed as an after-effect.
Even Israelis are conflicted. In the last poll that was taken 69% favored Gilad’s release with Hamas’s demands. 22% however, want Gilad to be released but not on the demands of Hamas. Daniel Bar-Tal, a professor at Tel Aviv University, made a comment that I think summed up the complications of the situation perfectly.
“Here we see the basic dilemmas between the individual and the collective, and we see victim pitted against victim. Gilad Shalit is a victim who was violently kidnapped, in a way that Israelis do not consider to be a normative means of struggle. Therefore, one side says, he should be returned at any price. But the families of those killed in terrorist attacks and the people who were wounded in those attacks are victims, too, and they say that no price should be paid to the murderers. And it is truly a dilemma, because no side is right, and no side is wrong.”
Any time a holiday is being celebrated, there are many Israelis who also make a point to say that Gilad is not here to partake in the celebrations. His story is depressing, but it is reality. While Israel more than deserves a day of celebrations for their independence, let it be known that there is still a lot more freedom that can be, and I damn sure hope one day, will be achieved.