Yesterday, the entire country spent the day glued to the television screen. At my office in Tel Aviv, a big screen TV was installed in the lobby so that we could follow the news coverage of the release of Gilad Shalit, imprisoned by Hamas for the past 5 years and 4 months. It was Ben Gurion that said that no Israeli would ever be left behind and for the past five years we have waited for his return. I watched my colleagues as they shouted with enthusiasm or wiped away the tears swelling in their eyes as the first photos were shown, proving that Gilad was alive. The entire country celebrated as a son came home. The entire country cheered as Gilad was returned to his family, to Aviva and Noam Shalit, in Mizpe Hila.
I moved to Israel in August of 2006, approximately 1 month after Gilad Shalit was captured outside of Gaza and taken into captivity. I moved here in the middle of the 2nd Lebanon war and was blown away by the posters that covered the country with the faces of Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. Sadly, Ehud and Eldad were never able to return to their families, but Gilad’s face has been an ever-present image throughout my time here.
I am now living with my boyfriend in Tel Aviv. We have an adorable kitten named Morris, a comfortable apartment and the support of all of our friends and families. I have spent the past 5 years building up my life in Israel, a life that began with 2 large green suitcases and fingers crossed. I have finished a Masters degree, moved countless times, worked as a linguist and as a market researcher. I have travelled to London, Amsterdam and Vienna. I have been back to San Francisco every year to visit my family and they have come to see me. I have walked on the beach, enjoyed picnics and nights out with my girlfriends.
Gilad has been locked up in captivity. He hasn’t seen the sun or spoken with his family. His experiences are unimaginable and I am overwhelmed to think of what he went through while I was taking walks in the park and riding horses outside of Tzfat. I have no words that can express what he went through. But watching the country come together yesterday, to watch him come home, was an amazing experience. To see how much Israel is willing to do to bring a son home warms my heart and makes me truly proud to call myself an Israeli. Yesterday was proof that we have stayed true to Ben Gurion’s belief that no Israeli will ever be left behind. Yesterday, Gilad came home.