Gilad Shalit gathering in Los Angeles celebrates the soldier’s return [VIDEO]

Just before the start of a community gathering early Tuesday morning in the ballroom of the Beverly Hilton Hotel, Israeli Consul General David Siegel looked toward a set of giant TV screens to watch Gilad Shalit step out of a helicopter on his journey home to Israel.

“There he is,” Siegel said simply.

The 350 people gathered in the Beverly Hills ballroom erupted in applause as they watched continuing live coverage from Israel of Shalit’s return home after being held captive by Hamas in Gaza for more than five years.

It was the emotional highpoint of a community gathering which was organized in just two days by the Consul General’s office in collaboration with the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and the Israeli Leadership Council.

Rabbis, community leaders, politicians, staff and members of Jewish organizations and others — including many young Israelis— filled the room.

“Today we are one people with one heart,” Sinai Temple’s Rabbi David Wolpe told the assembly. Wolpe was one of about a dozen speakers, rabbis and cantors to briefly address the crowd. “We are all responsible for one another,” Wolpe said.

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