Soldiers-to-Be: No Swap for Us

Soldiers-to-be begin five-day march warning against terrorist release. “Do not release terrorists for us,” they tell the government.

Maayana Miskin, | updated: 22:13

Israel news photo: C

Dozens of young soldiers-to-be from the Eitan military preparation program (mechina) have informed the government that if they are taken captive, they do not want to be freed at the price of releasing dangerous terrorists. Wearing T-shirt bearing the logo, “We love Gilad,” the youth have set out for a five-day march from Jerusalem to Gaza to spread their message.

They began their journey at the Har Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem, where they stopped to remember the fallen soldiers and to say a prayer for Gilad Shalit's freedom.

They plan to proceed to the Erez checkpoint outside Gaza, where they will call not to bargain for captive soldiers in a manner that undermines security.

One young man explained, “We are not yet in the army. We've never been in captivity. But specifically now, when we aren't yet in uniform, we are ready to make the commitment that if G-d forbid we are taken captive, we do not want them to free us in a way that would hurt national security.”

Student Liel Homiansky said he had received support from his father, a former prisoner of Zion, and another man who had been jailed by the Soviet Union. Both told him that while they were in prison, “With their whole hearts, they would never have agreed to be released if in exchange any Zionist principle would be endangered. Not even a security risk, but something like delaying aliya [immigration].”

Their support gave him the confidence to agree wholeheartedly that he does not want terrorists freed on his behalf, Homiansky said. He, along with dozens of others, signed a petition to that effect.

Students said they support the Shalit family, and want to see Gilad Shalit brought home as quickly as possible. “This is the most unifying point in this generation,” one said. “All of us want Gilad to return home safely – in an honorable way.”

Hamas has demanded the release of more than 1,000 terrorists in exchange for Shalit's freedom, and some senior military officials say meeting the demand would lead to more murders.

Efforts have been made around the world on behalf of Shalit: pro-Israel activists created a "Free Gilad flotilla" in New York, governments have called to worsen conditions for terrorists, Psalms have been recited worldwide and senior leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama have called for the young soldier's freedom. However, Shalit's captors continue to hold him incommunicado. He is assumed to be alive and in Gaza.