By: Noa Rom, Saloona
One year ago, Israeli solider Gilad Shalit returned home after more than 5 years in captivity of Hamas. Last week he gave his first major interview on Israeli TV. Saloona writer Noa Rom saw the interview, and thinks it's time we leave the kid alone
Gilad Shalit is alive. That’s fine. But he lives well. That’s where it ends. This is the general feeling coming from all directions, social networks are raging, there are angry reviews in the press; the kid went too far. It’s fine that he came home in one piece, but is he smiling? Enjoying? Has he been given a column in the sports section? And not simply a sports’ section in the local Mitzpe Hila paper, but Yediot Aharonot (the biggest Israeli daily).
Israeli writer Mati Golan expanded on this in his recent column that was brimming with anger and hatred toward Shalit. He concluded with the sentence, "I hate to tell you, Gilad, but we’re starting to get sick of you."
And thus my beloved nation – you’ve had enough. But you got your pound of flesh with the film "Gilad Shalit on Camera", which aired last night on Channel 10. It’s not an easy number of years that Shalit was held captive by Hamas. Five and a half years. 1941 days. But who's counting? Maybe Shalit. It’s hard for Golan and his friends. Perhaps if the number was rounded they would relax.
On June 25, 2006 Shalit was kidnapped to the Gaza Strip. In October last year he was released home. Tal Goren and Tamar Pross accompanied him in his return to the living. It’s not clear whether he wanted cameras at every step of the way, he probably thought he had no choice; you released me – so I’ll talk. He hoped that now they’ll let him be. I think it's just the beginning. While writing these lines I went over some of the comments on Facebook.
Some were excited and more than a few were disappointed in the film. They wrote that it didn’t reveal anything new, that Shalit stuttered, No doubt the program isn’t fascinating like a reality TV show, "Date in the Dark” (I dare say there was no light in captivity); he didn’t convert to Islam like Assi Cohen's character in "Hatufim" (the original Israeli version of the TV series “Homeland”) he didn’t get a BA in philosophy.
Or maybe people were disappointed that he seemed fine. He said he hadn’t been abused too much. And most of the time he was optimistic.
"How does one maintain optimism?," questioned the interviewer.
"I tried to enjoy what there was." He retorted looking down in shame.
So what was it? From time to time he watched a movie, followed the sports; he played backgammon and chess, and other games. He formed a ball from his sock and played with it. He tried to maintain a routine, and he waited. Patiently. Are you sure he's Israeli?
The film "Gilad Shalit on Camera," is painful and gripping and shattering. At points I could hardly breathe. Mainly because I felt that Shalit was struggling to take in air. And the words released from his mouth, God, the words were chilling. He knew he’d sat years in captivity and that his release would be long-drawn-out. He feared he would be forgotten. He knew all of this and he didn’t break. It’s hard for him to speak; he wasn’t spoken to much. There were no public speaking workshops.
In parallel, the film went back in time. It highlighted the rallies for his release, interviews with the family, initial recordings showing signs of life. Back then, we didn’t believe he’d come home; we thought he’d become the next Ron Arad. An interview with Aviva Shalit (Shalit’s mother) explaining that the pain is physical and not just emotional. Is he eating? Is he drinking? Is he cold or hot? She asks these questions without shedding a tear.
Similarly Shalit himself doesn’t cry in the film. Perhaps for this reason viewers are disappointed. If we released him - he should scream, lie on his bed and blow Cipralex bubbles. Better off with Prozac. People love to inflate balloons, salute stretchers supporting bodies, cry watching sad video tapes, but allow a soldier struggling to speak off the hook? That’s where it ends.
Aviva touches him. Caresses him. Maybe she’s checking to see whether he’s wearing a singlet under his shirt, that the child isn’t cold, that he won’t catch the flu.
Every day we send our children to kindergarten, school, the army; we worry about the hardships that may occur. Was he hit today? Bitten? Was the teacher angry? Was he confined to the army base? We worry and wait for them to come home, to hug them, inhale their scent, see them in front of our eyes.
And he is here. And he told it like he could. So enough. Let him be, let him breathe, fall in love, learn, get irritated, be angry and smile. Let him be Gilad.
This article appeared on saloona.co.il.
Translation from Hebrew: Ronit Zimmer.
Noa Rom is an Israeli author, journalist and teacher. She lives in Netanya, Israel.