Meeting Gilad Shalit: My Father’s Killer was Released to Bring Him Home
The Shalit agreement signed last year paved the way for the release of over 1,000 terrorists. Among them was one of the culprits responsible for the attack that killed my father over 10 years ago, on May 7, 2002.
Seven years ago, in memory of my father, I started One Heart, an organization that supports victims of terrorism around the world. As such, I strive to serve as a voice for victims of terrorism. I support them and work to unite them. For me, the thought of releasing terrorists is like a knife in the heart.
Last year, I gave the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, a letter signed by an American Senator as well as victims of terrorism from around the world. The message was clear: Do not release terrorists. We must fight terrorism. At the same time, I promoted a massive prayer rally for the release of Gilad Shalit, waiting for news of a special operation to release him. Together with millions of people from around the world, I prayed for him to make it home safely.
A few weeks ago, I met a former Shin Bet agent and I asked for his opinion regarding The Shalit agreement. The answer wasn’t surprising to me. He said that even if his own brother was kidnapped by Hamas, he still would not ask for the release of 1000 terrorists in exchange. Israel has a strong army and an amazing intelligence that can fight the enemy. We cannot give into them. It’s just a matter of time before the next soldier is kidnapped.
Another former Israeli Shin Bet agent conveyed a clear massage to me in a meeting a few years ago. He told me that as a young agent, he used to enter Arab villages, without guards or weapons, and ask to speak with those involved in terrorism. His name and reputation was enough to keep him safe, as the village knew who he was. He continued and said, “Jacob, you are among the next generation of Israeli leaders and you need to understand that we have lost our strength. We are not a force to be feared anymore. If I went into the wrong village today, I would be abducted and 1,000 terrorists would be released in exchange for my body.”
The 1,000 terrorists released in exchange for Gilad Shalit were a very high price to pay for Israel. With their release comes anger and fear.
Last night I met with Gilad. I didn’t know what to expect before meeting him and experienced a lot of conflicting emotions, but after we spoke, I finally understood the meaning of the Shalit Agreement. It’s hard to explain the happiness I felt in my heart while talking to him and seeing his smile. With a tear in my eye, I told him about the loss of my father and that we had both been hurt by the same group of people. I told Gilad that One Heart will always be there for him, but more importantly, that I will be there if he needs a friend and support.
Meeting Gilad closed an important circle for me. I didn’t care anymore about the 1,000 terrorists who went home as heroes. What mattered was his smile, and happiness. So for that, I want to say thank you to Binyamin Netanyahu for bringing Gilad home.
But, it’s time for the Israeli government to wake up and to act with all their power against any form of terrorism. For the past few years, we have seen the weakening of the Israeli government and its failure to bring peace to its citizens. There is a need to stand up and fight. There is a need to bring strength back to Israel. We need to be strong in the face of terrorism.
We need to be clear – Hamas will never win. Not against Israel. Not against victims of terrorism and not against Gilad. We will all continue, we will move on, and we will be strong in the face of opposition. We will build new lives based on good values, giving and support. Gilad, it was truly a pleasure to meet you. Be strong, and grow to be whatever you would like. That is the best gift you can give us all.
Jacob Kimchy is a speaker, activist and consultant for non-profit organizations around the world. He is currently the Founder and Executive Director of One Heart One Hope, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping and connecting victims of terrorism and their families across the world.