Can it be possible that more than five years have passed since Gilad Shalit was taken captive by the terrorist group known as Hamas? It all happened in late June 2006 in a cross-border raid when Gilad was all of 19 years old. Many of the photos from the time show him to be a mere boy, thin, vulnerable, but often smiling, with a sweet, trusting face. It is assumed — for we have no hard-and-fast information — that he has been held since then somewhere in Gaza.
So has anything changed since the last anniversary? Those with long memories may recall that last June the Turkish flotilla incident occurred and Israel was denounced with a vehemence that was shocking even to seasoned Israel supporters. The world was too involved in spewing venom to care about the date — or the fate of someone like Gilad Shalit.
This year, though, saw another flotilla event which failed with a resounding thud, thanks to the fact that the Turkish government refused to support the effort. That in itself was comforting but it didn't mean that the rest of the world was willing to expend some effort on freeing poor Gilad.
This paper and others like it began recently running small ads each week that keep track of how much time has passed since Gilad's abduction. These small spots are very necessary, a spur to conscience and a reminder that action must be taken.
As for almost everything else, it remains the same. Most terrible of all — aside from the fact that Hamas refuses to release the young man without Israel meeting a number of untoward demands — is the fact that the captors will still not let the International Red Cross in to see Gilad and thereby perhaps give some hope to his tormented parents.
The fact that the world — and here we mean non-Jews who might have some real influence — have not vociferously called for Gilad's release is disappointing in the extreme. But the fact that such people have not demanded that Hamas leaders let the Red Cross in is just as tragic.
One can only imagine what the Shalits have had to withstand all this time, never knowing anything about their lovely boy. How they manage to go on every day is a miracle. Their child's plight would probably undo lesser people.
What we in the Jewish community — in the Diaspora and in Israel — must do is demand that no stone go unturned until this soldier is returned home to the waiting arms of his family. We must impress upon U.S. and Israeli leaders that it is unconscionable to let another 12 months tick by without his release.
The pressure must be relentless. But we must also try to help others summon up an overwhelming empathetic response — to put themselves in the Shalits' shoes, even for a moment — and perhaps then the powers that be will free their captive and two parents and their son might find untroubled rest again.