IDF Recruits' Families Hope for Shalit Deal

Reports of a possible deal for the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit were the talk of the day at the Tel Hashomer military induction center yesterday, where hundreds of new recruits were joining the ranks of the Armored Corps, in which Shalit also serves.

"Our boy is being drafted and we hope Gilad will be released," said Gadi Shinkman, whose son Yoav joined the Armored Corps yesterday. Yoav's mother, Naomi, said she felt the impending deal would mean "a circle was being closed."

Although Shalit's release will also mean the release of Hamas prisoners held by Israel, who some fear could end up committing more terror attacks, "he has to be brought out," she said. "That's what Yoav thinks, too. In any case terror attacks will continue."

Col. Guy Bar-Lev, an officer in the Armored Corps training school, says motivation is up and almost all the available posts for new recruits have been filled - a sharp change from last year. Bar-Lev ascribed the increase to officers' home visits, in which they persuaded suitable potential recruits to join the Armored Corps. He said another factor that may have pushed up the figures is a program allowing groups of friends to join the corps and serve together.

The faces of the new recruits betrayed both excitement and apprehension yesterday. Among them was Amitai Refen from Kochav Ya'ir, whose father, Gad, a former Armored Corps officer, won a medal in the Six-Day War, when he was severely wounded. In thinking about the pros and cons of a possible deal to release Shalit, Gad Refen said, "I realized that when a soldier is sent out, we expect him to come back too."