Today is Israel’s 63rd Independence Day. Every year, as Israel grows stronger and plays a greater role in world affairs, we have more to celebrate. But today, I want to ask you to do something more meaningful than eat hummus and wave an Israeli flag.
Not everyone in Israel who fights for independence is independent. Gilad Shalit, an Israeli solder, was captured at the age of 20 by Hamas on June 25, 2006 in a cross-border operation. Here we are, almost five years later, and there is a very important person who cannot celebrate Israel’s independence with us because he is not free.
Recently, the head of Israel’s Shin Bet, Yuval Diskin, shared his single greatest regret as he left office. He failed to bring Shalit home to his parents. The newspaper in Israel reported his words. “I do not share my responsibility with anyone else for the Shalit affair,” Diskin declared. “I did not manage to bring Gilad home and to facilitate his return. I see this as my obligation and as my responsibility. As the head of the Shin Bet, I am saddened.” He took accountability for this mistake, but he is not the only one.
Where are we? What have each of us done to bring Gilad home? How can we think of celebrating Israel’s birthday with one candle missing? We can’t. I ask you today to honor Israel by honoring those who defend it, only one day after Yom Ha-zikaron, Israel’s day to remember fallen soldiers. Five years is five years too many. We have not protested enough. We have not written enough letters. We have not let enough congressmen know. Your help is one click away.
Give Israel a present for its birthday. Help Israel bring Gilad back.
Dr. Misha Galperin is President & CEO of the Jewish Agency International