Text size

Like many Israelis, I wish for Gilad Shalit's release. But in the meantime, I would have expected the Shalit family to take a number of steps beyond the media campaign they are engaged in.

I would expect them to remember that on June 25, 2006, when their son was captured, two soldiers lost their lives: Hanan Barak and Pavel Slutzker.

Today, no one remembers their names, much less their faces. I would expect that whenever they mention their son, captive but alive, they would also mention his two comrades, who were killed.

I would expect the Shalit family to put up the pictures of those soldiers next to Gilad's. He didn't set out to defend his country on his own; he had brothers in arms. They never returned. He is alive and we hope he will return.

I would expect the Shalit family to invite the families of Hanan Barak and Pavel Slutzker to their home, perhaps even to their protest tent.

In other words, and I say this cautiously, with every possible understanding of their pain, I would expect them to think of others beside themselves.

I would expect the Shalits to be aware that there is something outrageous about their (living) son's name becoming a national icon, while the names of the soldiers killed during his capture are forgotten. A Hebrew Google search brings up about 3.4 million references to Gilad Shalit, 270,000 to Hanan Barak and 741 to Pavel Slutzker.

There is something wrong with us if we can only remember the captive but not the fallen. I don't feel very comfortable saying this, but this is the truth: Shalit's family - along with the enormous media machine that rallied to its aid - has contributed to this distortion.

I would expect the Shalit family to tell us how it balances the concern for their son with the concern for the well-being of the hundreds of thousands of residents of the south who are exposed to continuing shelling by Hamas.

The problem is not only that the released Hamas prisoners might return to terror activity in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, but also that linking Shalit's release to a cease-fire agreement with Hamas turns everyone who lives in the south into hostages to the Shalit exchange.

With all due understanding, what comes first? The fate of one soldier, or the life and well-being of hundred of thousands of civilians?

This is a terrible choice, and one can see why it is a difficult one for the government. But we can also demand that the Shalits, pressing relentlessly for that which it has every right to claim, tell us how to resolve this moral quandary.

They who ask the public for empathy are not at liberty to deny empathy to others. And let no one say that this is not a matter for the Shalit family, but for the government: If the government is responsible, then the Shalits should wait for it to decide.

One can understand why the family finds it difficult to do so, but if you make hundreds of media appearances and rock the entire country with a public campaign, it is wrong and immoral to see everything exclusively from your own private point of view.

I have no doubt that some will see this as callous and indifferent. But let them ask themselves if they remember the names of Hanan Barak and Pavel Slutzker, and what the Shalit family did to remind us that in the incident two comrades of their kidnapped son lost their lives. At least let us remember their names. I would expect the Shalit family to recall them every day and every hour.

These two cannot be brought back but at least they can be remembered. This, too, is a moral duty owed to those sent by their country on a mission.