Thousands participated Thursday evening in the Second Hakafot at Gan HaPaamon, Liberty Bell Park, in Jerusalem, marking the conclusion of Simchat Torah and Sukkot.
For the 30th year running, the event was sponsored by US philanthropist Eugen Gluck, who also dedicated a first of its kind Talmudic Garden in Beit El this week.
Among the participants were the chief rabbis, Mayor Nir Barkat, and National Union Chairman MK Yaakov Katz, who is a personal a friend of Gluck's. This year, the day was celebrated with the aid of unique Torah scrolls that survived the Holocaust, which normally reside at the Heikhal Shlomo Synagogue in Jerusalem. One of the hakafot was dedicated to freed soldier Gilad Shalit.
'The holiday was a particularly joyous one with the return of Gilad Shalit from captivity," said Barkat. "There is no one who did not have tears in his eyes at the sight of Gilad returning and there is no one in the nation who does not have difficulty at the heavy price we paid for the move. The Nation of Israel was together and united on the Sukkot holiday."
Rav Yonah Metzger, Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi, said, "We are indeed very happy at the return of Shalit from prison to his home," and noted that Shalit was freed on the day in Sukkot which is dedicated to the biblical Joseph, who was also imprisoned. However, he added, "we are still sad at the heavy price that we had to pay and still sad that Jonathan Pollard is still not at home. It is time that he come home to the Land of Israel."
Second Hakafot were held all over Israel, and also held in Mitzpe Hila, where the Shalits reside. Gilad's brother Yoel took part and danced with a Torah scroll in his arms. The Shalit family explained that Gilad could not take part in large scale public events at this time.