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Press Release – 4 July 2011

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Melbourne Jewish community continues action for captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit

Melbourne’s Jewish community has sent a message of support, compassion and action to Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and the Shalit family, with hundreds participating in the weekend awareness campaign “5 Minutes for Gilad”, marking 5 long years since Gilad was kidnapped and held captive by the Hamas regime on June 25, 2006.

Beginning on Friday June 24, Jewish schools marked 5 Minutes for Gilad with activities and prayer services. At Bialik College, students hung posters of Gilad in a makeshift demonstration tent set up to resemble the tent in Jerusalem where Gilad Shalit’s family has vowed to keep vigil until he returns home. At Mount Scopus Memorial College students participated in prayers for Gilad’s freedom.

About 50 staff and visitors at the Beth Weizmann Jewish Community Centre joined in 5 minutes of silence at 11.00am on Friday and a powerful video clip was shown about the campaign.

The community-wide campaign continued on Saturday June 25 in synagogues across Melbourne, where Gilad was the focus of dedicated prayers and services.

The campaign culminated in the “5 Minutes for Gilad” community solidarity gathering at Caulfield Park Pavilion on Sunday morning, where more than 350 people packed the main function area and adjoining corridor. Families, community leaders and state politicians stood together and contemplated Gilad’s unjust plight for 5 minutes of silence. Emotion was palpable as the minutes slowly ticked by – 1 for each year that Gilad’s freedom and future have been stolen from him.

Co-convenors of the Parliamentary Friends of Israel David Southwick MP and Marsha Thomson MP addressed the crowd. Friends of Israel Parliamentary Secretary Elizabeth Miller MP also attended expressing her support.

Israeli adventure cyclist Roei Sadan, who arrived in Melbourne as part of his cycling journey around the world for the past 4 years contrasted his freedom with Gilad’s captivity.

The ZCV has since welcomed David Southwick MP’s call for political action on Gilad. The member for Caulfield moved a Notice of Motion to the Victorian Legislative Assembly, demanding “That this House recognises the anniversary of the capture of Gilad Shalit, the 24 year old Israeli who for five years has been held hostage, denied medical treatment and used as a pawn in a disgusting campaign of terror, and calls on all governments, NGOs and community groups around the world to apply pressure to the Hamas regime in Gaza to immediately release him and ensure that he is safely returned to his family and to his home in Israel.”

Support for the Facebook event “5 Minutes for Gilad in Melbourne” continues, with close to 600 people participating in the campaign, not only in Melbourne but around the world.

The ZCV encourages people to continue posting their messages of support for Gilad on the website ‘Meet Gilad‘.

ZCV Executive Director Jane Rapke emphasised the importance of keeping up community support for Gilad and the Shalit family. “The 5th anniversary of Gilad’s kidnapping has come and gone, and Hamas still holds Gilad captive. Our community has sent a very clear message that we will not give up hope of Gilad being freed and we vow to continue our campaign until he is back in Israel, with his family and loved ones”, she said.

More links:
• Photos and YouTube clip “5 Minutes for Gilad” community solidarity
• Article by ZCV president Sam Tatarka in On Line Opinion
• Joint political call to action by the Zionist Council of Victoria and the Jewish Community Council of Victoria to all sitting members of State Parliament; Parliamentary Friends of Israel and Parliamentary Friends of Palestine
• Australian House of Representatives called to action by The Hon Mark Deyfus QC MP

For more information contact:
Jane Rapke – Executive Director, Zionist Council of Victoria 9272 5544
Elly Shalev – Public Affairs, Zionist Council of Victoria 9272 5519, 0400 313 197
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The Zionist Council of Victoria leads and encourages Jewish and Zionist activity and expression within Victoria, to represent the Jewish community, to promote and communicate Israel’s interests within the broader Victorian community and to promote Victoria’s relationship with Israel. For more information, visit the Zionist Council of Victoria website www.zionismvictoria.org.au