On June 25, 2006, militants from Gaza snuck into Israel via an underground tunnel near the Kerem Shalom crossing and abducted a 19-year-old Israeli soldier: Gilad Shalit. In the first days after the abduction, Shalit’s captors demanded that all female prisoners and all minors who are being held in Israeli prisons be released in exchange. They then requested the release of a thousand additional prisoners. But Ehud Olmert, who was prime minister, was fundamentally against negotiating with Hamas, and the conversation between the Israelis and the Gazans ended there.
But while the politicians stalled, Shalit’s image seared itself into Israel’s consciousness. There was the serious teenage Gilad making a point with his hand raised in gesticulation, posted by supporters as their Facebook profile photo. There was the image of the emaciated boy in military garb reading a script to his government from captivity. There was the Gilad Shalit in a checked shirt being grilled by an Egyptian television personality, her questions like lashes at the newly released Gilad, thinner still and white as a sheet.
Over the five years of his captivity, Gilad Shalit became everyone’s child. And, in the end, the task of securing Shalit’s freedom fell not to military officers or politicians or special envoys, but to an outsider to Israel’s close-knit military-political establishment: Gershon Baskin, a peace activist from Long Island who spent 35 years developing relationships with Palestinian leaders. In his new book,The Negotiator: Freeing Gilad Schalit from Hamas, Baskin writes that, before Shalit, he had tried to rescue his wife’s cousin, Sasson Nuriel, after he disappeared in the West Bank, in 2005, to no avail. Nuriel was killed, and Baskin describes his guilt. “I had worked with Palestinians for decades, but all of my contacts had done nothing to save Sasson. I swore on his grave that if ever again asked to help save a life, I would do everything humanly possible to accomplish that mission. I would not rest until I’d succeeded.”
Today marks the second anniversary of Shalit’s return home. His face has now filled out, restoring something of his lost youthfulness. He is studying economics and sustainability, and he has a girlfriend. “I pinch myself every day, that I played this role in saving a human life,” Baskin said by phone from Jerusalem earlier this week. “It’s so amazing that it happened.”
The story of Baskin’s pivotal role in securing the young man’s life is a reminder that, for all the high-level negotiations and delicate offers of prisoner swaps or land compromises that characterize politics between the Israelis and the Palestinians, real progress rests on the strength of the personal experiences and commitments of the individuals involved. While Shalit’s release was ultimately secured by Israel’s release of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners, it was only Baskin’s commitment that kept negotiations—and Shalit—alive long enough to reach a resolution.
“Many households left an empty chair at their table for Gilad,” Baskin writes in his book. “This became customary over the next five years, not only in Israel but in Jewish homes around the world.” But for Baskin, “Gilad Shalit had become part of my family. I was always conscious of him, wondering how he was doing, where he was being held.”
The Negotiator: Freeing Gilad Schalit from Hamas killed
A 2018 demonstration against antisemitism in Berlin. Photo: Reuters / Fabrizio Bensch.
A slight drop in the number of antisemitic incidents in Berlin during the first half of this year is no excuse for complacency, the city’s antisemitism commissioner emphasized on Thursday following the publication of statistics for hate crimes targeting Jews in the German capital from January-June 2019.
“Antisemitism remains a serious problem that we cannot tolerate in Berlin,” Lorenz Korgel — the city’s commissioner for combating antisemitism — told local news outlet Berliner Morgenpost. “The number of antisemitic incidents remains at a high level. ”
People wear kippas at a demonstration in front of a Jewish synagogue denouncing an antisemitic attack on a young man wearing a kippa, in Berlin, Germany, April 25, 2018. (photo credit: FABRIZIO BENSCH / REUTERS)
The population of the State of Israel has increased 2.1% since last year, according to a report released in time for Rosh Hashanah by the Central Bureau of Statistics.
Today, there are 9.1 million citizens of Israel, of which some 6.7 million (74%) are Jewish, the report shows. The country’s citizens also include 1.9 million Arabs (21%) and 0.4% of “others,” including Christians and those of other minority groups.
A women holds up a sign against anti-Semitism at a rally in New York City on Sept. 22, 2019. Photo: Rhonda Hodas Hack.
JNS.org – Hundreds of demonstrators rallied in front of City Hall in New York on Sunday, calling on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and other municipal leaders, as well as those on the national level, to act against antisemitism and the wave of antisemitic hate crimes taking place against the Orthodox Jewish community.
The beach in Tel Aviv, Israel, May 17, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Ammar Awad.
On the eve of the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, ushering in the Jewish year of 5780, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics released its traditional end-of-the-year findings.
Israel’s population now stands at 9.092 million people — 6.744 million (74.2 percent) of whom are Jews, with 1.907 million (21 percent) Arabs and 441,000 (4.8 percent) listed as “other.”
Drew Seigla and Stephanie Lynne Mason. Photo: Instagram.
Drew Seigla and Stephanie Lynne Mason play Pertshik and Hodl, whose love story takes them all the way to Siberia in the award-winning show by the National Yiddish Theatre.
Sep 30, 2019 0Jeremy Hunt, the British Foreign secretary, has recently commissioned a report on the persecution of Christians, most acutely occurring in the Muslim World, and especially in the Arab/Muslim...
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“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.” — Sherlock Holmes, The Boscombe Valley Mystery
“Israel must, in the most blunt and clear way possible, illustrate to Washington that the prosperity of Jordan is a first-rate Israeli security and strategic interest.” — Former head of Mossad Ephraim Halevy at “Between Jerusalem and Amman: 25 Years Since the Signing of the Peace Agreement Between Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,” Institute for National Security Studies, Sept. 25, 2019.
A thought came to mind the other day.
For all the bluster about Judaism and anti-Semitism in America, I am not convinced that far-out-left and liberal young Jews, who have been very strident and even threatening on Israel-related issues and local American political battles, have done much on the ground to confront and quash, one way or another, attacks on Jews. They have portrayed themselves as gliding along a moral highway but have permitted immoral actions to exist quite close to home, far from Gaza (did any of them recite a public Kaddish in the town square for murdered and injured Jews, or their damaged and desecrated property)?
One of the hallmark features of Yom Kippur are the communal sins which we need to repent for. Most Jews focus on what we have done personally towards G-d and towards others. Little thought is given to how we could be better as a community. Or the sins we bear as a community.
However, the communal recitation of the Al Chet, repeated over and over on Yom Kippur is to drive the point home that we are responsible for one another
Incoming freshman Member of Knesset from the leftist, Democratic Union list, Yair Golan, did it again. Golan’s constant delegitimization of his political opponents on the right, smacks of the same delegitimization that tyrants, dictators, demagogues and assorted totalitarians always use, just before the Putsch.
In that regard, he’s right when he said recently, “I’m reminding people that the Nazis came to power democratically, so we have to be careful, very careful, so that radicals with a messianic view won’t exploit Israeli democracy to replace the system of government.” Think “
As Israeli frustration mounts about violence coming out of Gaza, the idea of a ground invasion, and once and for all to finish with Hamas aggression, becomes more appealing. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has endorsed this approach, saying, “There probably won’t be a choice but to topple the Hamas regime.” While sympathetic to this impulse, I worry that too much attention is paid to tactics and not enough to goals. The result could be harmful to Israel.