By Tal Sarig, Israel Emissary –
In Nov. 2012, after my year as a Young Emissary in the Pioneer Valley [Massachusetts], I will be going into the IDF, the Israeli military.
This is both exciting and scary. I am the third boy that my mother is sending to the army, to front line units. What happened today, the freeing of Gilad Shalit, sends a very strong message both to my mother and to me. Yes, Israel sends its boys to battle. However, Israel also values individuals and will do everything within its powers to get them back: even paying the price that we paid today. And have no doubts, the price was high.
On June 25, 2006, I was starting my summer break after finishing the 7th grade. That summer had many memorable events, but the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit was the one event out of many that marked that summer. Later that summer the Second Lebanon War broke out. In the last five years, what remained with me the most from that summer is not the memories of waking up to the sounds of alarms. Not even my friend from school losing his brother in the war. What remained from this summer is the thought of an Israeli soldier being kept in a terrorist prison.
Today, more than ever, I am proud to be an Israeli. I am proud to be a citizen of a country that would go to such great lengths for one soldier. I am proud to be Jewish, a religion in which every person matters.
The reality that Israel will be facing tomorrow is not a simple one. We cannot forget that a similar deal in 1985 led to the outbreak of the “First Intifada” less than three years later. This terrorist war caused the deaths of 164 Israeli citizens, many of the murders committed by people freed from prison because of a “three soldiers for 1,500 terrorists” exchange.
Today, I along with all Israelis, hope events like these will not happen again. We want to believe that the Israeli government has learned a lesson. More than everything else, we need to be happy for the Shalit family, who is having a truly happy Sukkot holiday.
Tal Sarig is the Anna P. Housen Israel Desk, Israel Emissary 2011-2012, serving in the Pioneer Valley in Massachusetts. He wrote this piece on Tuesday, Oct. 18, the day Gilad Shalit came home to Israel after being released from captivity in Gaza.
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