While talks with Hamas for a trade for captive soldier Gilad Shalit stall, a picture book he wrote when he was 11 is published.
"When the Shark and the Fish First Met" is the name of the new Hebrew-language booklet, based on a story written by Gilad Shalit ten years ago. Complete with drawings by the author, it was released over the weekend in a gallery in the northern town of Nahariya, not far from his hometown.
The story tells the tale of two enemies, a shark and a fish, who come to the conclusion that it is best to live and play together than continue fighting.
Shalit was taken captive by Hamas terrorists in June 2006. The enemy forces crawled through a tunnel under the Gaza-Israel border, killed two Israeli soldiers, and dragged Shalit back with them into Gaza. A tape of Shalit's voice was released this past June, and he is assumed to be alive.
Talks for his release have been on-again, off-again for many months, stipulating the release of as many as 1,500 convicted terrorists held in Israel or as few as 400. This past Friday, Hamas blamed Israel in its announcement that the latest round of negotiations had stalled.
Enemies Put Aside Their Differences
Gilad's father Noam said about the new publication, "It speaks for itself. An 11-year-old boy wrote an amazing story that is relevant to the situation in which he finds himself today. The message is about two enemies who end up reaching the conclusion that it is better to live together side by side, and not to eat each other. This, despite the pre-conceived notions of the parents, and especially the mothers."
"Gilad is now being held captive by the Palestinians in Gaza," Noam Shalit said, "and we have been waiting a year and a half for him to return home. I hope that the message from the book and from the gallery's exhibit will get to whoever needs to hear it: Our leaders and the leaders of our enemies. The truth comes from the mouth of babes, and all that remains is to persuade our leaders that this is the truth."
The idea of releasing hundreds of terrorist prisoners, including those who may have been involved in murderous attacks, in exchange for captive soldiers is a matter of great controversy. The Almagor Terror Victims Association has shown that in 30 attacks perpetrated in recent years by terrorists freed in prisoner exchanges or otherwise, nearly 180 innocent citizens, mostly Israeli Jews, were killed, and many were also seriously wounded. Of the nearly 7,000 terrorists who were freed between 1993 and 1999, over 850 (12.4%) had been re-arrested for murderous activity by August 2003. Another two-thirds of them returned to terrorist activity, be it in capacities of command, training or actual perpetration of attacks.
In addition, it has been reported lately that Hamas demands the release of terrorist chieftain Marwan Barghouti - a murderer who has already been freed from Israeli prison twice before, only to be returned to prison each time for even more heinous crimes and murders. Originally arrested in 1976, he was released under unknown circumstances and became one of the initiators and leaders of the first intifada that began in late 1987. He was ultimately arrested again and banished to Jordan, where he remained for seven years. He was then allowed into Judea and Samaria in 1994 in the framework of the Oslo Accords, after promising not to revert to terrorism - and is now in prison for the murder of five Israelis and involvement in murdering at least a dozen more.
Shalit's Comrades in Ariel
The officers and soldiers in Shalit's unit visited the Shomron (Samaria) city of Ariel last week, stopping at the local Holocaust Museum. Mayor Ron Nachman told them, "On behalf of the citizens of Ariel, I wish to encourage and strengthen you in the holy work in which you are engaged. From my standpoint, as a mayor and a private citizen, you and the army have my total support. I believe that the public does not sufficiently value the important and difficult work that you do. Please give the Shalit family all of our feelings of support during this difficult period."