Last Friday, the DRS (HALB) Yeshiva High School had the tremendous privilege of hosting Gilad Shalit, along with the 13 fellow members of his Tzahal platoon, and their commanding officer, Captain Yoav Belkes. Over the last five years, this platoon experienced the loss of two chayalim, as well as the kidnapping of Gilad, an event that continues to present challenges to all the members of the unit today. The program gave a chance for these special chayalei Tzahal, who put their lives on the line each day for acheinu bnei Yisrael, to process and speak about the challenges that they have experienced. The yeshiva was also graced with the presence of Mrs. Miriam Peretz, the “unofficial mother of the IDF,” who lost two sons in combat and has a third son serving now.
The yeshiva’s menahel, Rabbi Yisroel Kaminetsky, opened the program by addressing a room full of DRS students, members of the platoon, as well as the seniors and juniors from SKA (HALB) high school, and some invited guests from HAFTR high school. After introducing each of the chayalim to the crowd, Rabbi Kaminetsky directed his words towards the special guests: “We always pray for our chayalim. We love our chayalim. You are our brothers and the Jewish people will always stand by the soldiers of the Tzahal…We have tremendous hakarat hatov for your sacrifice on behalf of Jews all over the world to protect our beloved Medinat Yisrael. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
Rabbi Kaminetsky also took a moment to address Gilad Shalit specifically. Rabbi Kaminetsky told Gilad, that for five years, after Shacharit every day in school he would announce, “We will now say a prayer for the health and safety for Gilad ben Aviva Shalit.” Speaking face to face with Gilad, Rabbi Kaminetsky continued, “I cannot describe to you the feelings I now have being able to look at you, and to know you are home safely. You have been a model to the world to never give up hope. You symbolize the strength and courage of a chayal Tzahal and of a Jew, who always believes ‘yeish tikvah,’ ‘there is always hope’. Thank you for your strength and courage, and we give thanks to Hakadosh Baruch Hu for answering our heartfelt tefillot on your behalf.”
Several students received the opportunity to ask questions to the chayalim. Each of the chayalim addressed the crowd, recounting emotional stories, and expressing their feelings on the importance of serving in the Israeli Defense Force. Finally, Gilad Shalit had a chance to speak to the crowd, as he extended his gratitude to all those who have prayed for him, stating, “I so appreciate the warmth you and Jews all over have shown me. I don’t take it for granted.” Both the students in the audience and the chayalim gained a tremendous amount of chizuk from the event and from each other. The students learned to appreciate both the physical and emotional strength of our soldiers, while the soldiers appreciated the opportunity to continue to therapeutically speak about and process their thoughts and feelings from all that they have been through.
The yeshiva is indebted to the amazing ba’alat chesed, DRS parent Dr. Chagit Hadar, for her incredible dedication to the Shalit family, for arranging the amazing event, as well as parents Phil and Malkie Rosen for their support of this visit.
Just as Hashem has heard the tefillot of Klal Yisrael and delivered Gilad from captivity to freedom, may Hashem deliver all who are experiencing darkness into light, and the Jewish people from bondage to salvation. v