Shimon Peres on Facebook: I’m not quite dead yet


Amid rumors of his death, Shimon Peres took to social media to reassure the public he was very much alive.

Rumors flew around social media Monday that the 92-year-old Peres had died, starting on Whatsapp groups and snowballing from there.

“I wish to thank the citizens of Israel for the support, concern and interest, and wish to clarify that the rumors are false,” Peres said in a Facebook post. “I’m continuing with my daily schedule as usual to do whatever I can to assist The State of Israel and its citizens.”

Peres retired as president of Israel in 2014 after more than half a century in public life.

It is believed the death of someone else named Shimon Peres may have sparked the rumors.

We salute you, Gilad!


“He who wrought miracles for our fathers, and redeemed them from slavery unto freedom, may he speedily redeem us, and gather our exiles from the four corners of the earth, even all Israel united in fellowship; and let us say, Amen.” 

“HaMakom y’rachem ethkhem b’tokh sh’ar aveilei Tzion v’Yrushalayim” 

“May G-d comfort you among all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem” 






I remember the last time I cried. Not sobbed, but cried. 



It was in England. I had returned there following my service in Tzahal to pursue my medical studies – my ambition at the time to become a physician. It was an ambition I left behind me some time ago. 



I was a stranger in that country. I returned there British in accent and formal citizenship alone – not viscerally. In my soul, my mindset and my thoughts I had become an Israeli, moulded to that form in a fashion that only a military experience can beget. 



No event defined my service to a greater extent than the second Lebanon war, during which Ehud Goldwasser, Eldad Regev and Gilad Schalit were kidnapped. Their abduction reverberated around our unit, to our officers and, of course, throughout Israeli society as a whole. Ehud and Eldad, Z’L were kidnapped on July 12th, 2006. Gilad, on June 25th of the same year. 



When I returned to England in 2008, I was consumed with angst as to the fate of them all. I don’t believe I ever spoke out on the subject. It was too fresh. I simply prayed each morning and every night in my solitude that they would be returned home to their families safely, alive and well. 



Every passing day brought greater loneliness in the United Kingdom. There seemed to be no-one with whom I could speak on this matter, nobody with whom I could share this experience. And yet I was sustained by a deep hope that all were still alive. 



My Israeli friends, when I discussed the prospect of our soldiers coming home, would tell me that in the case of Goldwasser and Regev there was little reason to remain optimistic. So extensive was the damage to their vehicle, they would tell me, they could not possibly have survived. But hope I did, and pray I did. 

Israel entered into negotiations with Hezbollah for their return. 



Then came the day of the exchange. I was driving as the news came over the radio. Coffins filled with their bodies were to be transferred, rather than soldiers alive and well. 

My hopes for their safe return were ended. I felt I had been naive and foolish. Drawing my car to the roadside I began to weep, and that weep became a sob and the sobbing evolved into cries. 



I felt totally alone, detached from all around me and embarrassed by my optimism. 

It was July 16th, 2008, and that was the last time I cried. 

Today, here in Israel, we celebrate the return of Gilad Schalit, even as we console one another over the dreadful cost that has been furnished for his return. 



Here in Israel, like nowhere else on earth, we have all carried the anguish of his absence and we have done so as one. That oneness is perhaps what made it all bearable. 

Here we refused to relinquish our hope, to cease our praying or to abandon our belief that one day, some day, we might yet see Gilad return. Here there was no loneliness in our anguish, rather abundant company to share the burden – tragically. 



Today he is home. Our hearts soar even as many a tear falls. But I will not cry this day. Today, I prefer pragmatism rather than emotion when considering the actions of our enemies. 



So pragmatically speaking, I state that most every member of Tzahal has known an emptiness since Gilad was taken from us. Each of us has tried not to wonder as to our own fate in the event that the worst should befall us, G-d forbid. 

Every family, every parent and every grandparent of Israel has felt the same, and Jews around the world have voiced their yearning to see Gilad come home. 



Today, our government has brought him home and that anguish has dissipated. Tonight we rest assured that we will not be left behind in the field of battle, nor at a checkpoint, nor at any other post and we are comforted by that. 

Yet I fear that a new anguish has replaced the old, as we try to anticipate the actions and activities of those who have been released, the possible precedent that has been set, and as we hear the declaration by Hamas that kidnapping is thus proven to be a sound strategy – one to be replicated in the future. 



Gilad had to come home. Our collective wound can now heal, but situations such as this cannot and must not continue. 

Friends, those who seek to terrorise us must be made to understand that our sons and daughters in uniform are not bargaining chips to be redeemed at the time of their choosing. 



Our soldiers are our flesh and our blood, our guardians and protectors. They are our brothers, sisters, parents and children and they, each of them, must be guarded and protected in return. They are untouchable, sacred to us all. 



So this day I will not cry, not even a tear, but I will certainly pray. I will pray that our government, even as I thank them for Gilads return, will ensure that such a sinister dynamic is never revisited upon us. 



I pray Gilad and his family will know peace once more. 



I pray the world understands the price that we paid and will draw no moral equivalence between their thousand and our one. 



I pray we all remember the victims and families of the victims of terror – for dip as we do our fingers into the Passover wine each year to mourn the loss of another people, so too must the joy of today be tempered by sadness. 



I pray we remember always that no matter how heavily this price may weigh on our hearts, it is precisely our heart that makes us so wondrous a people. 



And I pray and give thanks for the fact that here in Israel, while lessons must be learned, changes must be made and policies must be altered; hope, for me, is never to be abandoned – not in the surroundings in which I find myself today. 



Welcome home to you, Gilad. We pray that you heal and thank you for enabling us to do the same. 

It is we who salute you. 



IDF Sgt. Res. Benjamin Anthony is founder and director of Our Soldiers Speak.

First images of Gilad Shalit released; IDF confirms he is alive and well


An Israel Defense Forces official confirmed Tuesday that Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was identified at the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt and is “alive and well.”

Earlier Hamas said Israel completed the transfer into Egypt of Palestinian prisoners due to be deported overseas and into the Gaza Strip, in a clear sign that a deal geared at securing the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was back on track.

The Hamas report came following a brief stall in the prisoner exchange deal after IDF officials said two female Palestinian prisoners refused to be deported into the Gaza Strip.

One of the prisoners resisting deportation is reportedly Amna Muna, who was jailed for life in 2003 for luring 16-year-old Israeli Ofir Rahum from Ashkelon to Ramallah, where he was shot dead by Fatah terrorists.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

Gilad Shalit freed in mass prisoner swap


Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit returned home to a national outpouring of joy on Tuesday after five years in captivity as hundreds of Palestinian prisoners exchanged for him were greeted with kisses from Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip.

“I missed my family,” a gaunt Shalit, his breathing labored at times, said in an interview with Egyptian TV conducted before he was transferred to Israel and broadcast after he went free.

“I hope this deal will promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” he said.

Shalit, 25, was taken across the frontier from the Gaza Strip into Egypt’s Sinai peninsula and driven to Israel’s Vineyard of Peace border crossing, where a helicopter awaited to fly him to an Israeli air base for a reunion with his parents.

Simultaneously Israel freed 477 Palestinian prisoners, most of them to the Gaza Strip, where Hamas leaders greeted former prisoners piling off buses bearing Red Cross insignia.

Palestinians, awaiting the release of prisoners at a West Bank checkpoint, hurled rocks at Israeli soldiers, who responded with tear gas, after the military announced to the crowd over a loudspeaker that the group had been taken to another crossing.

In the television interview, Shalit said he found out a week ago that he was to be released. The soldier, who had not been seen since a 2009 video, said he had feared he would be held “for many more years”.

Political commentators said it appeared unlikely the prisoner exchange agreed by the two bitter enemies would have any immediate impact on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that broke down last year.

The mood in Israel was one of elation, with “welcome home” signs on street corners and morning commuters watching live broadcasts of the swap on cellular telephones.

Shalit has been popularly portrayed as “everyone’s son” and opinion polls showed that an overwhelming majority of Israeli backed the thousand-for-one deal, although many of the prisoners going free were convicted of deadly attacks.

For Palestinians, it was a time to celebrate what Hamas hailed as a victory, and a heroes’ welcome awaited the released prisoners. Palestinians see brethren jailed by Israel as prisoners of war in a struggle for statehood.

“This is the greatest joy for the Palestinian people,” said Azzia al-Qawasmeh, who waited at a West Bank checkpoint for her son Amer, whom she said had been in prison for 24 years.

The deal received a green light from Israel’s Supreme Court late on Monday after it rejected petitions from the public to prevent the mass release of prisoners, many serving life sentences imposed by Israeli courts for deadly attacks.

CROSS-BORDER RAID

Shalit was abducted in June 2006 by militants who tunneled into Israel from the Gaza Strip and surprised his tank crew, killing two of his comrades. He was whisked back into Gaza and has since been held incommunicado.

Israel, which withdrew troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005, tightened its blockade of the small coastal enclave after Shalit’s disappearance.

The deal with Hamas, a group classified by the United States and European Union as a terrorist organization over its refusal to recognize Israel and renounce violence, is not expected to spur peace negotiations.

Those talks, led by Israel and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a Hamas rival, collapsed 13 months ago. Abbas now wants the U.N. to recognize Palestinian statehood, a unilateral bid opposed by Israel and its main ally, the United States.

At Tel Nof air base in central Israel, Shalit will see his parents, whose public campaign for his release put pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make a deal with a bitter enemy. Netanyahu will also meet Shalit there. Later, Shalit will fly by helicopter to his family home in northern Israel.

The repatriation of captured soldiers, alive or dead, has long been an emotionally charged issue for Israelis. Many have served in the military as conscripts and see it as sacrosanct. But they also feel stung by the high price they feel Israel is paying for Shalit.

“I understand the difficulty in accepting that the vile people who committed the heinous crimes against your loved ones will not pay the full price they deserve,” Netanyahu wrote in a letter, released by his office, to bereaved Israeli families.

Additional reporting by Rami Amichai, Ronen Zvulun, Ari Rabinovitch, Maayan Lubell, Douglas Hamilton, Mohammed Salem and Tom Perry; Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Crispian Balmer and Alastair Macdonald

Shalit says in good health during interview on Egypt TV


Freed Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit said on Tuesday he was in good health and he hoped his release in exchange for hundreds of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons would lead to peace between the two peoples.

In an interview shortly after his release, Shalit, 25, looked tired and dazed, hesitating as he replied to questions from an Egyptian TV reporter.

Speaking through a translator, Shalit said he would be very happy if remaining Palestinians held in Israeli prisons were freed to return to their own families.

“Of course I miss my family very much. I also miss my friends,” he said. “I hope this deal will lead to peace between Palestinians and Israelis and that it will support cooperation between both sides.”

Reporting by Tamim Elyan and Marwa Awad

Shalit’s brother shouts at Independence Day ceremony: Gilad is still alive


Yoel Shalit, brother of abducted Israel Defense forces soldier Gilad Shalit clashed with police on Monday as he was escorted out of the official 63rd Independence Day ceremony at Mount Herzl for shouting during the speeches.

Shortly after Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin finished his speech kicking off the official celebrations, Yoel Shalit stood up from the crowd, together with his girlfriend, and raised signs reading “Gilad is still alive.”

The two were forcefully removed from the crowd by police as they continued shouting.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

Jewish Agency events mark Shalit birthday


Events marking the 23rd birthday of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit will be held around the United States on Friday.

The Jewish Agency for Israel is organizing about a dozen ceremonies to honor the soldier, who was taken captive in a cross-border raid at the Gaza-Israel border more than three years ago. He is believed to be alive and in captivity in Gaza. Shalit’s birthday is Aug. 28.

In Columbus, Ohio organizers will grant Shalit honorary citizenship. In San Francisco, a documentary on Shalit will be screened at the Jewish film festival. In Miami, children will release 1,000 balloons symbolizing the hope that he will be released soon.

“Participants at the events will be asked to sign post cards to the Red Cross asking that Shalit receive the full rights of an abducted soldier under international law and that the Red Cross work for the soldier’s release,” the Jewish Agency said in a news release on Monday.

In Israel, activists on behalf of Shalit marked his upcoming birthday by demonstrating Tuesday in front of two prisons in which Palestinians are incarcerated, disrupting family visits. Demonstrators have called on the Israeli government to withhold visitors to Hamas prisoners until Hamas allows the Red Cross to meet with Shalit.