The nations' eyes were focused on Mitzpeh Hila yesterday, but the crowds of well-wishers and curious onlookers who journeyed there were kept at bay by the hundreds of officers deployed in the area, who allowed only residents and journalists to enter Gilad Shalit's hometown.
From the morning, numerous trucks bearing Israeli flags, bracelets with Shalit's likeness, broadcast equipment and portable toilets made their way into the western Galilee village. Every entry and exit was monitored by police, who patroled the area in marked and unmarked cars and motorcycles.
A police roadblock about a kilometer outside the town stopped cars and people made their way to the gated entrance on foot. Avraham Lahiani, his wife Me'ira, and their five children came to Mitzpeh Hila from Acre, carrying a sign that read "Bless the Lord, the God of Israel, who redeems captives."
"This is my first time in Mitzpeh Hila," Avraham said, as if referring to a tourist attraction. "This is the Jewish people, this is our unity."
"For us, who identify with the nationalist-Haredi community, it is particularly important for us to be here to show support," said Me'ira. "What is happening here is a mitzvah, the price isn't important; it just shows how much a single Jew is worth."
Avraham and Tova Shprecher came to Mitzpeh Hila from Bnei Brak with their 4-year-old son.
"[Shalit] is our son, he is in the hearts of all of us, we had to come," said Tova.
Tami, 24, from the northern town of Shlomi, came with three relatives. "Being here today is a must," she said. "It's the first time we're here but we were praying for him the whole time."
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