Noam and Aviva Shalit, parents of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, arrived Wednesday evening in their home in Mitzpe Hila in northern Israel, after leaving the protest site they had been encamped at in Jerusalem. They were welcomed by dozens activists and neighbors.
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"I am glad to return home and I'm waiting for Gilad," said his father Noam. "I want to see him coming down the stairs of the house to come full circle. It's been a long road. It's time for Gilad to come home."
Gilad's brother Yoel said as he arrived: "Tonight feels like truly coming home. I never believed we would have such a happy holiday. I am excited and a bit nervous, because Gilad still isn't home."
Earlier on Wednesday, President Shimon Peres met with the family of Gilad Shalit in Jerusalem and praised the deal reached between Israel and Hamas that includes Shalit's release.
Peres told Shalit's parents that they struggled for their son's release with "restraint and dignity".
Aviva Shalit thanked the Netanyahu government for approving the swap deal, saying it was a "courageous decision." She also paid tribute to the families of the two soldiers killed in the June 2005 attack that led to her son's capture.
"The bereaved families will always be with us and we will always remember Hanan [Barak] and Pavel [Slutzker] who were killed in the incident," she said.
Peres also met with Israeli officials who took part in the Shalit talks, including the head of Israel's negotiating team, David Meidan. Peres thanked the officials for their work in reaching a deal to bring Shalit home.
Peres thanked the Egyptian and Turkish governments for their roles in the efforts to achieve the deal.