The Red Cross efforts to gain access to abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit are intensive and ongoing, a senior Red Cross official said Sept. 22, and organization officials meet frequently with the Shalit family and are aware of their deep suffering. The comments were made at a meeting at Red Cross headquarters in Washington, DC, with Jewish Agency for Israel lay leaders and community representatives who delivered hundreds of postcards from Americans for Gilad Shalit and thousands of names collected in an electronic petition, calling on the Red Cross to continue demanding that Gilad Shalit receive the full rights of an abducted soldier under international law.
“The Red Cross has been trying to obtain access to Gilad Shalit since his capture in June 2006,” Mary Werntz, Head of Regional Delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to the United States and Canada, told the Jewish Agency group. “It has done so through its contacts in Gaza, in Damascus and at various levels. This is a discussion that takes place all the time, several times per week in the different contexts. Rest assured that we will continue in our efforts.” She noted that to date the Red Cross had been denied any form of contact with Shalit.
The meeting with Werntz and American Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern marked the culmination of efforts in a dozen cities in the United States, organized by Jewish Agency emissaries at Federations and community organizations, to mark Shalit’s 23rd birthday and increase awareness of the plight of the Israeli soldier abducted by Hamas in Gaza over three years ago. Events included formal declarations on the municipal and state level calling to free Shalit, and participants signed post cards to the Red Cross with personal messages to Shalit – postcards which were delivered in Tuesday’s meeting.
Representing the Jewish Agency lay leadership were Dede Feinberg and Norman Goldstein. In presenting the postcards, Goldstein spoke of “the grave concerns of American Jews regarding the fate and wellbeing of Gilad Shalit. Tell us what we can do to help,” he said.
Misha Galperin, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, spoke of the Jewish value of rescuing those held captive, and the centrality placed on the individual human life.
Representing the communities participating in the awareness activities last month was Rabbi John Linder of Congregation Solel in Phoenix, Arizona. Linder and congregant Jay Levinsohn read a postcard written by a member of their community. “‘As a mother of a 23 year old son, it is hard to imagine what you are going through. But as a mother I can tell you, you should know you are loved and missed.’”
Werntz said the postcards would be delivered to Geneva and from there to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Asked whether Shalit would ever get them, “it will probably be only after he is released,” she said.