Students from a New York City elementary school have marked two years since the abduction of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit by reading aloud a book he wrote at their age, in a three-minute video uploaded Tuesday onto YouTube.
Five fifth-graders from the Bronx public school were chosen to read When the Shark and the Fish First Met, a short story unearthed by Shalit's former teacher and published earlier this year.
The video shows images of the students reading, interspersed with pictures from the book, drawn by a team of Israeli illustrators.
Shalit's story, which he wrote at age 11, tells of a shark and fish who become friends and stay playmates even as their parents pressure them to remain enemies. In the end, the characters' friendship leads to peace between their species.
The book has already been translated into numerous languages, including Arabic and English.
The video project was the initiative of the Israeli Consulate in New York, jointly organized by David Saranga, Consul for Media and Public Affairs, and Yoram Morad, Israel's Cultural Attache to the U.S.
The purpose of the project, said Saranga, is to "raise awareness of this humanitarian issue in the United States and around the world. A multiethnic selection of students reading this story of peace and reconciliation sends a powerful message that cannot be ignored."
Leslie Ramirez, an 11-year-old who participated in the reading, said she was inspired both by how young Shalit was when he wrote the book as well as by the story's message of peace.
"Gilad was a boy our age when he wrote this story; if only we could write something so significant at this age. Today, no one knows where he is and he probably misses his parents," Ramirez said. "If the shark and fish can make peace, why can't people?"
The Bronx school selected for the project has received acclaim for its efforts to promote peace and tolerance and to weed out violence through cultural projects.
Shalit was abducted by militants from the Gaza Strip in a cross-border raid on June 25, 2006. His parents have received some sign of life from him, but details of the negotiations for his release have been mostly hush.
The Shalit family this week petitioned the High Court of Justice to order the government not to continue implementing a cease-fire agreement with Hamas in Gaza, which went into effect on Thursday, unless the Gaza captors agree to release their son.
Egypt, meanwhile, has assured Israel that the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt will remain closed until a deal securing Shalit's release is reached.
The Israeli Consulate has joined Facebook in calling on users of the social network to change their profile pictures to an image of Shalit on Wednesday to commemorate the two years since his abduction.
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