Sydney turns out in force to welcome Shalit home

October 19, 2011 by Henry Benjamin
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More than 1,000 members of Sydney’s Jewish community packed the Central Synagogue to watch Gilad Shalit make his historical return home to Israel after five years as a captive of Hamas.

Showing the flag

Hillel Fried translates from Channel 2 Israel

A huge number of the younger members of the community listened intently as Hineni shaliach Hillel Fried translated the Internet feed from Israel’s channel 2 as it was beamed to a large screen in the synagogue’s Lowy Beit Midrash.

His arrival sparked an electric response from the audience who followed Fried’s interpretation of the chain of events with vocal enthusiasm.

Fried, 26, told J-Wire: “I have mentioned Gilad Shalit’s names three times each day in my prayers for the last five years. Seeing him released was like finding a lost brother. It was very emotional and a day everyone will remember for the rest of their lives. It exemplifies the uniqueness of who we are. Jews. We will trade 1,000 terrorists for one of our own.”

Israeli-born Fried, who has been in Sydney since May, added that last night’s event had been organised by the State Zionist Council of NSW. He said: “As a Jew and an Israeli, I can only say this was a very emotional event. I could never forget it.”

The Central’s Rabbi Levi Wolff sat amongst the crowd with members of the family and J-Wire also spotted Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence from the Great Synagogue and Rabbi Dovid Slavin from Our Big Kitchen.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said: “The Australian Government warmly welcomed Gilad Shalit’s release from captivity today.

Mr Shalit was captured in a raid by the armed wing of Hamas in June 2006.

He has been held in the Gaza strip by Hamas since that time.

Gilad Shalit’s captivity was as inhumane as it was unjustified.

In addition to his detention, he was deprived of the right to be in contact with his family.

Through five long years, Gilad Shalit was in the thoughts of Australians, many of whom campaigned for his release.

We wish Gilad and his family well for their reunion and for their future.”

Israel’s Ambassador to New Zealand, Shemi Tzur, today welcomed the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit, who arrived back in Israel yesterday after more than five years being held in solitary confinement by the Hamas regime in Gaza.

Echoing the words of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mr Tzur said it was a bittersweet moment. The joy of seeing the captured soldier returned alive with the realization that the release had come at a heavy price.

In order to effect yesterday’s outcome, more than 1000 convicted Palestinian prisoners were released from Israeli prisons, among them hundreds directly involved in the killings of 599 Israeli citizens.

“Israel, like New Zealand, a small country where everybody knows everybody, and there are no degrees of separation,” Mr Tzur said. “Everything about this affair is something we all feel very deeply.”

“For Israel, however, the most important thing here always was to honour our commitment to never leaving a soldier behind.”

“Yesterday, after 1941 terrible nights spent in solitary captivity, denied even a visit by the Red Cross, Gilad was able to come home.”

Minister for Citizenship and Communities Victor Dominello MP and the Chair of the NSW Parliamentary Israeli Friendship Group Gabrielle Upton MP today welcomed the return of Gilad Shalit to Israel and his family.

“This is a day of great joy for Gilad Shalit’s family, and also the people of Israel and the NSW Jewish community,” Minister Dominello said.

“I congratulate the NSW Jewish community for strongly abiding by Mr Shalit’s cause and strongly advocating for his release and return to Israel and his family,” Minister Dominello said.

Ms Upton noted the dignity that Mr Shalit had shown upon his release.

“The NSW Jewish community, in particular the NSW Board of Deputies and the Zionist Council, have been steadfast in its support of Mr Shalit, and are to be commended for their contribution,” Ms Upton.

“After five long years of very difficult captivity, it is inspiring that Mr Shalit walked with honour into Israel. This demonstrated his strength of character.

“We wish him very well in his reunion with his family, his recovery from an extraordinary ordeal, and moving ahead with his life,” Ms Upton said.


One Response to “Sydney turns out in force to welcome Shalit home”
  1. Lynne Newington says:

    I’s enough to make a mother weep.
    That a religious state would let 1.000 go to save one son.
    Sounds a little familiar where the Lord set aside the 99…..
    What an example to others:
    Long live Israel.

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