Gilad Shalit: A Soldier, A Mother, and the Power of Prayer

I have followed the story of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit since he was captured on June 25, 2006.  He was 19 years old when he was abducted, and it has been four years since his family has seen, or spoken to him.  Four years since his mother touched her baby, or had a good night’s sleep.

My son has been at his father’s house for a week, and it will be another seven days until he comes home.  I know he is safe.  I talk to him every day.  I have nothing to worry about.  Yet some days, I miss him so much, that I sleep in his room.  I cannot imagine what life is like for Aviva Shalit.

Not knowing what is happening to your child is a nightmare that I cannot wrap my head around, and pray every day I will never experience.  I think about all the things that have happened in my life over the past four years, and it allows me to put Aviva’s experience into perspective.

I have never met Aviva, yet feel as if I know her.  She is like any mother who loves her child.  There is a special bond between a mother and a son. All children are precious, and we don’t love sons different from daughters, but there is something magical about a mother and a son.

When celebrities win awards, or athletes win big games, they thank their moms no matter how old they are.  I know my son is uniquely connected to me, and my relationship with him shapes how I live my life.  He is my greatest blessing, no matter how old he gets.

Each phone conversation with my son ends with him saying, “I love you, mom.”  Every reunion after time apart, even a day, begins with “I love you mom.”  While I appreciate and crave the words from my son, Aviva’s ongoing heartache, reminds me to never take any of it for granted.

Every time I tell my son I love him, I share the words from Aviva to Gilad.  Every time my son calls me to let me know he is okay, he carries a message from Gilad to his mother.  Every time I pray for the safety of my son, I must wish the same for Gilad.

I believe in God, and I believe in prayer.  I know there is strength in numbers, and so I ask this:  As mothers, Jewish or not, of sons or daughters, whether our children are babies or adults, are we not obligated to unite our voices, and join prayers to bring this boy home?

Our prayers will not just be for Gilad Shalit,  but for every soldier who has a mother, father, child, sibling, or friend who cares about them, and prays for their safe return.  Our prayers must extend to every single child, who is trying to find their way home.

Our united voices are for every little girl who dreams of being a mom, every mom who gave birth to a child, every mom who is blessed to raise a child delivered by another woman, every mom who is waiting for her child to be born, and every mom who is waiting for her baby’s safe return.

We are mothers.  We are strong and our love can bring these kids home.  I am certain people are rolling their eyes, thinking I’m ridiculous for suggesting this can help.  To those people, I say this: If I were Aviva Shalit, I would take comfort in each and every prayer.

I can’t bring Gilad home.  I can’t make a call to those who have taken him, and negotiate his safe return.  What I can do, is keep him alive in my prayers, wish for him all that I wish for my own child, and find peace in the fact that God is listening, and paying attention to my prayers.

Prayer is personal.  Not everyone prays, and different people pray in different ways. Don’t let the word “prayer” stop you from joining your voice to mine.  By taking a moment to think about Gilad, or by saying “Gilad, you are in my thoughts”, is enough.

Jewish or gentile, soldier or civilian, add this wonderful boy, his mother, and all families, of all soldiers, in all conflicts, in all countries, to your thoughts today.  Regardless of how you worship, whether you believe in prayer or not, it won’t hurt, and it takes no time.

To Aviva, you are in my prayers. I will hold my son for both of us, until you are able to hold Gilad again.  To Gilad, be strong.  We are all waiting for you to come home.  As mothers we are able to love all children, which is a blessing.  We love you Gilad, and we are keeping the faith.