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Rabbi Steve Gutow

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What Has Gilad Shalit Missed and What Have We Experienced?

Posted: 06/23/11 05:17 PM ET

In 2006, Facebook had just 10 million users, Justin Bieber was 11, and Gilad Shalit was free.

On June 25, 2006, Hamas terrorists captured Gilad Shalit, an Israeli corporal, in a cross border raid. He has remained captive since.

A lot can happen in five years.

Facebook now has over 500 million users and Bieber Fever is a global pandemic. However, Gilad is still a captive and his whereabouts and health remain unknown. Hamas, against the urging of the U.S. and U.N., has continued to deny the International Committee of the Red Cross access to Gilad. Instead, he has been held hostage, without access to the outside world, as a way to taunt and provoke Israel.

Through four different versions of the iPhone and the introduction, and reintroduction, of the iPad, Hamas has chosen to keep Gilad hidden from the world, isolated from his family and country. This is not how you treat a prisoner, but of course Hamas knows that. That is because after five years, 1,826 sunrises and sunsets, Gilad's fate is not just that of a captive but rather a human tragedy. He is a victim of Hamas's cruelty; a terrorist group's rejection of the basic dignity of humankind. His captivity is a challenge to the commandment in Judaism of Pidyon Shvuyim, the mandate to free prisoners.

What has happened in five years? What has Shalit missed? Since he was first kidnapped, dictators from Musharraf to Mubarak have fallen in the name of liberty. Revolutions have begotten revolutions. The Arab Spring has come but Gilad remains excluded from the world. When an earthquake devastated Haiti and many rallied to her aid, Gilad sat in isolation. A war in Georgia began and ended. Independence was declared in Kosovo and Southern Sudan. Michael Jackson died and President Barack Obama was elected.

Over the past five years, while major events have shaped our world, Gilad has missed much of the years of young adulthood. Just 19 when he was kidnapped, he has been deprived of 260 weekends with his friends and 260 Shabbats with his family. There have been 250,000 weddings in Israel since the start of his captivity -- none his and none has he celebrated. Every one of us can recollect how wondrous the early twenties have been in our lives. At their very best Gilad Shalit's early twenties will not be memories he will cherish.

Gilad's treatment has been both cowardly and immoral. While depriving him access to groups like the Red Cross, Hamas used him in propaganda videos. The human impact of Gilad's captivity is difficult to describe and comprehend. The crime of Gilad's isolation is not that he has never heard of Angry Birds. It is more; it is the idea that destroying a young man's life is acceptable social policy under the terms of Hamas' ethical foundation. Who are these people that could do this? From what part of their minds does this failure of basic decency come?

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs has started whatgiladmissed.org to help draw attention to just how long Gilad has been kept from the world and his loved ones. Only by recognizing the magnitude of this tragedy can we impel the world to rise up and say more forcefully than it already has: 'This is not okay. This is not an act that we will sit still and allow to continue.' I urge you to join the chorus of others on Twitter and Facebook and offer your own descriptions of #WhatGiladMissed.

Gilad has been gone for too long. He has missed out on too much. While Hamas has kept him hidden, we have been introduced to Sarah Palin and said goodbye to Harry Potter. There have been 665 million babies born and even more Lady Gaga costume changes. Life goes on and Gilad Shalit remains a captive. As long as he remains so, we have not done our work. Gilad does not deserve this fate and our task is to do all we can to end his horror.

Rabbi Steve Gutow is the President of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. For more information and updates, visit jewishpublicaffairs.org and follow @theJCPA on Twitter.