Free at Last, Shalit Returns to Israel

Released Soldier Hopes Prisoner Swap Will 'Lead to Peace'

Home for Good: Beaming father Noam Shalit walks with son, Gilad Shalit, as the soldier enjoys his first day of freedom after five years in captivity.
Getty Images
Home for Good: Beaming father Noam Shalit walks with son, Gilad Shalit, as the soldier enjoys his first day of freedom after five years in captivity.

By Forward Staff

Published October 18, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Joyous crowds of neighbors greeted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit on his arrival home in the northern town of Mitzpe Hila after he was finally released from five years in captivity Tuesday.

Throngs lined the streets singing “Heveinu Shalom Aleichim” and marching with flags as he returned with his family to his house for the first time since being captured by Hamas in 2006. They tossed flowers at an Israeli army vehicle that transported Shalit and his family to their home.

He told interviewers he was “very emotional” about being released and hoped the massive prisoner-swap might help lead to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

“I’m very emotional. I haven’t seen people in a long time,” Shalit told Egyptian TV, adding that he was looking forward “to meeting people, to talking to people” and “not doing the same things all day long.”

Done Deal: Freed soldier Gilad Shalit meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other officials after his release.
getty images
Done Deal: Freed soldier Gilad Shalit meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other officials after his release.

Shalit, 25, looked tired and dazed, hesitating as he replied to questions from an Egyptian TV reporter. Speaking through a translator, Shalit said he was in good health and that he hoped his release in exchange for hundreds of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons would lead to peace between the two peoples.

Shalit was later taken into Israel and met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at an airbase.

“Welcome back to Israel. How good to have you back home,” Netanyahu told the freed soldier, according to the BBC.

He later met with his family and was flying by helicopter to their home in the north of the country.

“I hope this deal will lead to peace between Palestinians and Israelis and that it will support cooperation between both sides,” he said.

Shalit also said he would be very happy if remaining Palestinians held in Israeli prisons were freed to return to their own families, but that he hoped “they won’t go back to fighting against Israel.”

Asked when he was told he would be set free in exchange for Palestinian prisoners, he said: “I received the news about a week ago. I can’t describe my feelings then, but I felt I had hard moments ahead of me.” He said he had feared he would remain in captivity for “many more years” and remained afraid that “things may go wrong.”

“I think that the Egyptians succeeded, because they have good relations both with Hamas and with Israel,” he replied, when the interviewer made a point of stressing that it had been the Egyptian National Security which mediated his release.

Israel and Hamas agreed through Egyptian mediation late last Monday on a deal that secured Shalit’s release in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners. Shalit officially passed into Israeli custody on Tuesday morning.

Shalit was abducted in June 2006 by militants who tunnelled into Israel from the Gaza Strip and surprised his tank crew, killing two of his comrades. He was whisked back into Gaza and held incommunicado until his release.

With reports from Haaretz

For more, go to Haaretz.com


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.