Eitan Shiskoff

Executive Director
Tents of Mercy Network
"What does this compelling story of an entire nation uniting behind one young man and his family say to us? It speaks of our inter-connectedness. It shouts that we are not alone, not separate. It says that even though our life seems small and powerless, each member of a community represents the whole and carries the value of the entire people."

By Eitan Shishkoff

A ll Israel watched as Gilad Shalit was freed after 5 years and 4 months. It was a communal experience. We wept for joy. We laughed with relief. We were amazed to see the gaunt young hero emerge from Hamas' captivity. We were touched watching him respond to the bewildering array of challenges immediately confronting him upon his release - from the chutzpah of an Egyptian TV interviewer to the reception by our prime minister. In my nineteen years as an Israeli, I've not witnessed anything like the unifying power of this event, even in the midst of war.

Every parent identified with Aviva and Noam, his mom and dad. They dedicated each of the 1940 days of their son's illegal imprisonment as a kidnapped IDF soldier, to getting him home. They traveled the world appealing to many governments. They marched on foot with tens of thousands of fellow Israelis the 134 miles from their northern kibbutz home to Jerusalem, holding rallies in every city (including ours) to garner support for their boy's freedom. At the end of the march, early in July 2010, they took up residence in a tent facing the prime minister's residence, vowing to stay there until Gilad was brought home. And they succeeded.

It happened with a lot of prayers. It required years of negotiations involving numerous multi-national diplomatic efforts. And it took a difficult decision by Benjamin Netanyahu and his cabinet to release 1027 Palestinian prisoners, many of who were serving life sentences for murdering Israelis in cold-blooded terror. But the vast majority of the country supported this risky step out of identification with one family whose child was sent to defend us all and paid for it with nearly five and a half years of his life. Shalit, now 25, was merely 19 when captured.

What does this compelling story of an entire nation uniting behind one young man and his family say to us? It speaks of our inter-connectedness. It shouts that we are not alone, not separate. It says that even though our life seems small and powerless, each member of a community represents the whole and carries the value of the entire people. I am proud of Israel for rescuing Gilad. Sure, it would have been dramatic and glorious to have swooped in Entebbe-style to pluck him out of enemy hands. You can believe that every effort was made to locate Gilad and launch such a rescue. But the other kind of courage, the kind that pays for one innocent life with more than a 1000 terrorists, says something about a society too. It says that there is a bond that surpasses politics, economics and religion. Somehow, it hearkens back to our roots as a covenant people who were told "One shall put to flight a thousand..."

Gilad's return begs the question "What is community?" At a recent Shabbat service we heard four testimonies from members of the congregation. That was the entire message for that Shabbat. After hearing these four stories of the hand of God working in a delightful variety of lives, I felt such joy. I thought, "Now this is true community." The testimonies began with a young father, originally from the Caucasus Mountains, whose life was miraculously saved after his head was crushed by a container at work (see His Mercy Endures Forever August 2011). Then we heard how an Ethiopian Israeli, whose wife had prayed for him for years, gave his life to Yeshua after his hand was healed in the middle of the night! Next, the leader of our seniors "Golden Age" ministry shared her contagious joy over receiving permanent residency after a trying 12-year process. She has two sons and eight grandchildren who have been full citizens the entire time. Finally, my son Avi recounted his search for a relationship of his own with God, winding his way through stormy teen-age years in Israeli society and the intensity of Israeli Defense Force combat service.

One Soldier, One Nation

Not long after Gilad was safely back at Mitzpe Hila, in the upper Galilee, I found myself at a wedding reception. There I spoke with a young Israeli who works in production for the country's most watched television station. She described the multi-monitor, lightning-paced, all-hands-on-deck effort to report each unfolding moment of Shalit's release. With cameras and reporters stationed at every stage of the process one could follow the event from before his appearance with Hamas officials (10:23am) until his arrival at the scenic northern kibbutz he calls home (5:07pm). The highest viewer ratings in Israeli television history were recorded that day.

Beyond the statistics and the intensity of the newsroom, our nation wept for joy to see a young man come home after the nightmare of extended captivity in the hands of hate-filled murderers. On August 18, Gilad was visibly weak, a fragile victim smiling shyly as he was passed from the hands of Hamas, to Egypt, to the Israeli Defense Force, to the Prime Minister and, at last, to his mother and father, sister and brother. He drew the people of Israel together in a sweet quality of one-ness so rare for our pressure-filled and usually fractured society. Is it a preview of a future reunion? Gilad's homecoming offers an intriguing comparison with the oneness that will take place when another young Israeli who long ago suffered for His people, the Suffering Servant, returns home to finally receive His well-deserved hero's welcome.

By Eitan Shishkoff
Donate to the work of Ohalei Rachamim.
Let us know what you think - why not comment to this article. The authors of these articles are often involved in intense ministry and are thus unable to respond to most comments. As is normal with print and online magazines, Tikkun reserves the right to publish only those comments we feel are edifying in tone and content.
Name Display my name ?
Yes No
Email Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comments.
18:49 01Nov11 Rich -
article warmed my heart. I also wept tears of joy for this brave young man, as I watched his release on TV - and for his long suffering family too. Gilad Shalit is a symbol, I believe, of hope that those who value life over death will prevail because Jeshua has conquered death on the cross. I am not Jewish - as far as I know - and I live in New Zealand, but we here in the outermost parts of the world watch and pray along with you for the same outcomes and Gilad has been often in our prayers and on our hearts over here.
I hope, believing that the fact Israel was willing to risk further bloodshed from released terrorists in order to save one son's precious life will speak volumes to Israel's enemies about love and hope and courage and true bavery - and ultimately turn many of their hearts toward Jeshua, who died for all mankind.
I couldn&039;t help noticing also

01:17 02Nov11 Iberia Soares -
Enjoyed this article imensely. It is so hear warming to see the country united in this case. We too wept for joy when we saw him get out of that helicopter!!

06:41 02Nov11 Jill Robertson -
Thankyou for sharing this article. I have not cried so much in years, watching on New Zealand TV this pale, frail young man finally released. To see him so gaunt reminded me of photos of holocaust victims. I, along with so many around the world as well as in Israel, have prayed for years, for Gilad's safe return home. At a huge cost to Israel, it shows how much one person is worth to God's heart. What a beautiful young man Gilad is, and we shall continue to uphold him before the Lord, for healing and restoration in all ways. To have survived so courageously reminds me of the story of Joseph, another innocent who was imprisoned. May the unity and rejoicing in Israel be a sweet balm, and yes, a pre-curser to Yeshua's return.

Also in this issue of the newsletter:
Daniel Juster: The Purpose of the United States
Leora Mazurovsky: Raising a Generation of Faith
Asher Intrater: Three Generational God
Asher Intrater: Yad Hashmonah