Earlier today Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured by Hamas over five years ago, was reunited with his family in Israel. Rumors of the pending prisoner exchange first emerged a week ago on October 11th. My news feed on Facebook has gone crazy following the story ever since. Gilad’s release is a big deal in the international community and is rightfully receiving a lot of media attention– but I think the story has definitely resonated the most amongst my peers – young American Jewish professionals. Perhaps it’s because in another lifetime we could have been him.
Gilad was 19 when he was captured on June 25, 2006. So was I; Gilad is only six months older than me. While he and his counterparts growing up in Israelwere serving their mandatory time in the Israeli Defense Force, I was interning at the United Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and preparing for my second year of college at the University of Maryland.
In the past five plus years while Gilad was held captive, I studied abroad in Europe, earned a bachelor’s degree, started my first job and became financially independent from my parents. Forget my bat mitzvah, it was these past few years that I became an adult.
In the coming days, people around the world will continue to debate the terms of Gilad’s release. 1,027 jailed Palestinians for one Israeli. Jewish mothers will lament how pale and thin he looks. Today let’s just celebrate Gilad’s freedom and homecoming, the beginning of the rest of his life.