Rally for Gilad / Desperation Into Hope

The event outside the Defense Ministry offices in Tel Aviv yesterday, marking three years since Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was taken captive, was very different from the angry rally held toward the end of Ehud Olmert's government, marking 1000 days of Shalit's captivity.

The blatant verbal volleys hurled at Olmert by author Meir Shalev were this time replaced by Bratslav Hasids blasting a ram's horn, a public prayer session led by Rabbi Yisrael Lau and explicit threats by former chief of staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak launched at Shalit's captors.

This wasn't only a change in tactics. The personal rage that has driven the protest against Olmert has dissipated and so far has not been directed toward Benjamin Netanyahu's government.

A large poster saying "Barak buried a soldier alive in Gaza" disappeared almost as soon as it was raised. The ongoing despair is giving way to new hope, the awful anger being replaced by the glimmer of a chance.

On the ruins of Olmert's unpaid debt, Netanyahu seems to be getting credit from every part of the political spectrum.

This unifying, yet also sterilized message made it possible for right-wing, religious and ultra-religious people to get together with left-wing activists. Even Gush Shalom was represented at the gathering by peace activist Adam Keller, who seeks the release of the Palestinian prisoners and the end of the siege on Gaza through Gilad Shalit's release.

He also believes Netanyahu can succeed where Olmert failed, because he would encounter less public opposition to releasing prisoners with blood on their hands.

A young man who recently embraced religion said he was yearning for Shalit's release as proof of God's existence. The young people filling the plaza seemed to want his release as proof of the state's commitment to them. The parents of the babies whose legs were adorned with yellow ribbons seek the release as guarantees for their infants' future.

Each one has his own Shalit. So much anxiety and sorrow focus on one young prisoner. Orly Federbush and Guy Meroz, who served as MC of the event, reminded everyone that now, like then, the government is the one responsible for the captive's release.