For the last several days, the Shalit family has been walking from their home in the north, through many towns and cities. They passed the school where Gilad went; they were joined by the midwife who helped his mother give birth. It is an emotional journey, one the Shalit’s say they won’t end until Gilad is home. They have asked Israelis to join them and thousands have. Each leg of the way, people join in, cars honk in support, and a few days ago, pilots flew overhead as a symbol of their love and support.
Yesterday, the group took a side tour to Keren Shalom, the place where Gilad was kidnapped four years ago. There they stood, so close and yet so far, from the son who has been held against international law, without any verification of his conditions, without even a visit from the Red Cross or an international organization such as the UN. There, in darkness, deep underground, Gilad waits.
The family has asked Israelis to send their love, their prayers and their support. We send all of this. The organizers have asked Israelis to fly yellow ribbons as a visual and emotional confirmation. Many are doing this, and I am not.
I have an orange ribbon on my car – a memory to more than 20 communities and 9,000 people who were pulled from their homes in Gaza as part of Ariel Sharon’s unilateral Disengagement Plan. The plan failed because while we disengaged from Gaza and destroyed the lives, livelihood, and homes of so many, Gaza didn’t disengage from the rockets, the attacks, the kidnapping attempts.
I have a gold ribbon on my car – a sign of love and support for Jerusalem. There are those who foolishly believe that another unilateral agreement might work even though all the others have failed. They say dividing Jerusalem again might solve the problems that the last division didn’t. From 1948 – 1967, Jews were unable to pray at their holiest of sites because the Arabs controlled the area and the world didn’t care about our religious rights. When we captured the Old City of Jerusalem, we immediately opened the mosques, including the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aska Mosques on the Temple Mount to the Arabs…more, we gave them almost complete control over the area. Christians pray in the Holy Sepulchre, Arabs pray in their mosques, Jews pray at the Kotel (not on the Temple Mount where we are forbidden to even move our lips as if we are praying) and the world says things aren’t fair and pressures Israel to return to a time when we could not pray.
And so I fly a gold ribbon to say to the world – no, we won’t surrender Jerusalem and give up our holy places even as we continue to respect all other religions and their love of this city. And now, the Shalit’s want me to fly a yellow ribbon. I was so ready to add it to my car – it belongs there as Gilad belongs home.
But then I started listening and reading and realized, with great agony, that I can’t fly the yellow ribbon because it does not stand for loving and praying and missing Gilad. It stands for yet another disastrous government policy of capitulation. Just as withdrawing from Gaza brought Ashkelon and Ashdod within firing range of Gaza’s rockets, trading more than 1,000 prisoners blind to what they have done and more what they will do in the future, is wrong and misguided.
We abandoned not only the Gaza communities, but the safety of Ashkelon and Ashdod and hundreds of thousands of Israelis by pulling out of Gaza. By trading this huge and uncontrolled number of prisoners for Gilad, we are abandoning the safety of all our soldiers and most of our population. If you want more prisoners, we are announcing, kidnap and kill our sons; attack our cities and launch terrorist attacks – our courts and jails won’t hold you because ultimately, we value a single son as more worthy than all you can throw at us.
With more pain than you can imagine, I can’t fly a yellow ribbon on my car because it means not support for Gilad, but a call to the government to trade for Gilad “at all costs.” At all costs can translate, will translate, to another son, another terrorist attack. A huge portion of previously released terrorists have returned to the ways of terror. Dozens of Israelis are dead today because we traded for others in the hopes that this would end.
It never ends.
Gilad Shalit may come home – we pray that he will; but the cost, if the yellow ribbon has its way, will be in the lives of many others. Had the Shalits marched to Keren Shalom to demand Hamas release their son, I would have been with them; had they gone the headquarters of the Red Cross or the United Nations to demand they act for Gilad and stop all aid to Gaza until they follow international law, I would have been with them.
Instead, they march to Jerusalem, and in so doing, allow the world to believe that Jerusalem and not Gaza is responsible; that Jerusalem and not Gaza holds Gilad’s future. As parents, it is easier and more comforting to believe this way. As Israelis, it is left to the rest of us to send our love and prayers for Gilad, but to hold our government accountable. A yellow ribbon that means “at all costs” simply costs more than any of us can afford to pay…even for Gilad.