In Israel, Gilad Shalit Is Everybody’s Son, and His Wedding Everybody’s Celebration

June 29, 2021 | Daniel Gordis
About the author: Daniel Gordis is the Koret Distinguished Fellow at Shalem College in Jerusalem and the author, most recently, of We Stand Divided: The Rift Between American Jews and Israel.

Dominating the headlines in Israeli newspapers last week, amid reports of COVID-19 variants and the usual spats at the Knesset, was the wedding of Gilad Shalit—who, while serving in the IDF in 2006, was captured by Hamas and held hostage for five years. He was released in exchange for 1,027 imprisoned terrorists, many of whom had murdered Israelis, and some of whom went on to do so again. Daniel Gordis writes:

The headline about Shalit’s having gotten married was classic Israeli. Ha-yeled shel kulanu, it read, “He’s the son of all of us” (bad English, but there’s no good way to render the Hebrew). Then it continues: “Gilad Shalit married Nitzan Shabbat.” . . . [T]his is a place where you actually have kids you’ve never met.

Zechariah Baumel was one of several soldiers taken prisoner when their unit was attacked in the battle of Sultan Yakub in June 1982. For years, Israel knew virtually nothing about his fate. Baumel’s father, Yona, devoted the rest of his life to pressing Israel to do more to get information, and as part of this many-years-long campaign, he ended up speaking to the middle-school class of one of our sons.

Our son came home, and over dinner, told us about Baumel’s presentation. During the question-and-answer portion, he told us, one of his classmates asked Baumel if he worried that Zechariah was still being tortured. I grimaced; middle-school kids don’t yet know what you don’t ask. But I didn’t say anything, and our son continued. “No,” Yona Baumel told the kids, “I don’t worry that they’re torturing him. I just worry that he’s cold at night.”

What makes Israeli society what it is, is that there was no one in Israel who did not know who Gilad Shalit was. There was no one who did not think about him. That’s not only who we are, it’s why we are.

The joy felt in the Jewish state at the news of Shalit’s wedding calls to mind the prophecy of a forlorn and imprisoned Jeremiah, whom God told to bring a message of hope to a Judean people facing destruction: “Again there shall be heard in this place, . . . even in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, that are desolate, without man, and without inhabitant, and without beast, the voice of joy, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride.”

Read more on Israel from the Inside:

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register Already a subscriber? Sign in now