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Gilad Shalit: 'I Pray for the Soldiers'

Freed soldier's father, Noam, says he has visited fallen soldiers' families, contrary to criticism leveled at him.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 7/30/2014, 2:39 PM

Gilad Shalit
Gilad Shalit
Flash 90

Gilad Shalit, the former IDF Armored Corps soldier who was abducted by Hamas in 2006 and held for five years until he was freed in exchange for more than 1,000 terrorists, told Channel 2 Wednesday – “I pray for the well-being of the soldiers and hope they will return home safely, thank you.”

"Just as IDF soldiers helped and supported me in the past, so I thank them for their present activity and am following events with concern,” Shalit added.

The short interview appears to have come in response to a wave of criticism leveled against the Shalit family on social networks.

One Facebook post that has been shared about 1,000 times – a very large number, in Israeli terms – attacked the Shalit family for its silence regarding the present military operation. “We did everything for you,” wrote Assaf Amram of Tel Aviv, “but we have not seen you once, not on television, we have not seen you visitng, neither the war wounded nor the families of the fallen, when in other times, those people stood by you. The saddest thing is that we are fighting against the same people whom we freed for your son.”

Noam Shalit told Kikar Hashabat Tuesday that the allegations against the family are untrue. “Who said we don't go to soldiers' families? Just today, I visited two bereaved families from our region, whose sons fell in Gaza. 

"We just don't publicize it,” he explained. “We don't bring cameramen to every event like this. We are private people now.”

While the Shalits are, indeed, private citizens, they may simply be paying the price of the enormous public campaign that was mounted by numerous groups to bring Gilad home, during his captivity. The emotionally charged campaign used various heavily funded publicity gimmicks to drive home the message that Israel must free Shalit “at any price,” and was ultimately successful in bringing about a deal that many saw as a victory for Hamas. In the course of the campaign, Gilad Shalit and his parents became media celebrities. Millions of Israelis felt, or perhaps, were made to feel, that Gilad was a member of their own family.

The deal was opposed by people who warned that it would result in more terrorism – and in fact, some of the terrorists freed in the deal have gone back to terrorist activity. The current rocket campaign by Hamas against Israel appears to be motivated in part by a desire to undo an Israeli decision, in the course of Operation Brother's Keeper, to rearrest some of the terrorists freed in the Shalit deal.

In terms of the way the Israeli public views him, Noam Shalit also appears to have miscalculated when he ran in the primaries in the Labor party in 2012. The move was resented by many Israelis as a cynical attempt to make a political career out of his son's captivity and the subsequent effort by people of all political persuasions to free him.