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Statement – 18 October 2012

ZCV President Sam Tatarka reflects on a year since Gilad Shalit’s release

Gilad Shalit’s release from Hamas terrorist captivity exactly a year ago was a milestone event in Israel and for Jews everywhere.  The emotion and jubilation felt by our Zionist community in Melbourne was palpable as we gathered in Beth Weizmann to watch a live feed of the prisoner exchange that finally saw Gilad come home into the loving arms of his parents and indeed the entire Jewish people.

To see the events unfold in real time was almost surreal.  After five long years the last few minutes ticked down with Hamas handing over the gaunt and pale Gilad to Egyptian authorities who (following that execrable propaganda exercise tricked up as an interview with an Egyptian “journalist”) finally handed Gilad over to a waiting team from the IDF.
In an interview on ABC 774 the next day I was asked by an inexplicably optimistic Jon Faine whether the “Israel-Hamas prisoner exchange” represented the dawn of a new and hopeful paradigm between Israel and Hamas.  He seemed genuinely surprised at the pessimism with which I met his questions on the subject.  Nevertheless we knew what Hamas was, how explicit and extreme it was and remains in its rejection of Israel and how cruel it had been in the treatment of the lone Israeli in Gaza, disallowing him the basic rights due to a prisoner of war and torturing his parents and loved ones by isolating him to the point where no one was sure whether he was still alive.

Sadly and predictably no progress has been made over the past year and there is little reason to suggest that situation will change in the foreseeable future.  Hamas and its minions in Gaza (some of whom were amongst the 1000 prisoners exchanged by Israel to secure Gilad’s release) openly pursue their hateful rocket fire and terrorist activity into southern Israel, making miserable the lives of tens of thousands of Israelis who live within a few seconds warning of disaster.

Gilad Shalit continues to inspire people. Gilad’s 25th birthday celebration linked to ZCV’s Facebook and Twitter pages received our highest ever response rate on social media. His Rosh Hashanah reflection about appreciating what you have in life, published in Israeli media is a lesson to live by. On the first anniversary of his release the Victorian Zionist community wishes Gilad many years of happiness and good health as he continues his journey toward a life of normality.