'God Will Save Gilad Shalit,' Shas' Rabbi Yosef Tells Abductee's Father

Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef tells Noam Shalit he is 'optimistic' of son's release.

Shas' spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, told the father of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit on Monday that divine intervention will bring him home.

Shas chairman Eli Yishai said on Sunday that there is a window of opportunity for consummating a prisoner exchange swap for Shalit before the elections.

Yishai made the statements after meeting with Noam and Tzvi Shalit, the soldier's father and grandfather, respectively, at the home of the party's spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

The meeting took place at Noam Shalit's request. Shalit said afterwards that he heard strong words of support from Yosef.

"He asked to invite Gilad to visit him when he will be released, and he said he is optimistic," Noam Shalit said.

The rabbi spoke of the importance of the religious commandment of returning hostages. "His Holiness may He be blessed will save him from the hands of these wicked ones," Yosef told Noam Shalit.

Noam Shalit asked to meet with Rabbi Yosef a number of weeks ago. Yishai said the meeting was delayed due to the Gaza operation as well as the rabbi's failing health. Yosef recently underwent surgery, thus enabling him to receive Shalit.

Members of the non-government advocacy group pressing for Shalit's return said the meeting is part of a round of sit-downs the Shalits intend on holding with a number of public figures. Politicians have been criticized for being overly preoccupied with elections while neglecting the issue of the captive soldier.

"If members of Knesset would invest a portion of the energy that they put into moving up elections and devoted it returning [Shalit], he would have been with us," an official with the group said.