shalit - Olivia Pitusi - November 10 2010
Noam Shalit in front of a sign marking 1600 days behind bars for his son, captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Photo by Olivia Pitusi
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The Zionist Organization of America of the University of Maryland, in cooperation with several other Washington, D.C.-area universities and Jewish organizations staged a rally to support Gilad Shalit at the Washington Mall on Thursday night.

The rally, called '1600 for 1600,' was intended to bring 1600 people to represent each of the 1600 days that Gilad Shalit has been held captive. Despite the large number of people registered for the rally, only about 1000 showed up.

Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren was supposed to speak, but had to stay in New York with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Instead, Oren's deputy Dan Arbel spoke to the crowd about the congressional support that keeps Shalit high on the agenda and the need to continue pressure on Hamas.

Earlier on Thursday morning, Arbel informed Shalit’s father Noam about the rally, as he was not previously aware of the event.

“It is somewhat poignant that exactly 1600 days after Gilad's capture it is also America's Veterans Day”, said Arbel. “I spoke with Gilad's father Noam Shalit this morning, and he is personally touched by this special gesture of young Americans coming together on the National Mall to raise awareness about his son's perilous situation."

"To hear of young people traveling across the US gathering in Washington on behalf of Gilad is a sincere commitment," Arbel added.

Among the other speakers at the rally were Congressman Eliot Engel and Endowment for Middle East Truth President Sarah Stern.