The Real Letter

How is it possible to believe a letter written by a captured soldier who does not feel well and wants to go home? It sounds exaggerated, illogical.

Jimmy Carter hates Israelis, but he hates captive Israelis less. That is why he, darn it, was able to do what others who are ardent lovers of Israel were not able to do: This week, he forwarded a letter written by Gilad Shalit to his family.

In the letter, so it was reported, Gilad pleads for his life, hints at his impaired health and demands his immediate release. Undoubtedly, security officials concluded, the letter was formulated by his captors. How lucky we are to have security "analysts"; how could we have understood it on our own, without them? And really, how is it possible to believe a letter written by a captured soldier who does not feel well and wants to go home? It sounds exaggerated, illogical. The conclusion is clear: The handwriting in the letter is the hand of Gilad, but the voice is the voice of Hamas.

Had his captors not stood right behind him, dictating every word, Gilad would have sent a different letter, a real one. It practically writes itself:

"To Mom and Dad, Grandfather and Grandmother, Hadas and Yoel: Shalom. It's been two years since I was kidnapped. The time passes quickly, and sometimes it seems to me as if only two weeks had passed. My health is fine, so ignore my previous letter. There is no urgency about freeing me. Only the fact that I miss you makes it hard for me to sleep, but the yearnings of a soldier should not determine policy. A government doesn't have to solve personal problems, it has much more important problems to worry about.

"I kind of enjoy the days here. The guys are good company, we eat and drink and laugh together. The food supply is abundant. Even rice is not lacking, and on quiet nights, we have a barbecue.

"Between bombings and shellings, they take me out for walks, and it's pleasant to walk in the Gaza Strip: open spaces, stunning views, a pastoral atmosphere. And those sunsets - even at home in Mitzpeh Hila the sunsets aren't as beautiful.

"We listen to the radio a lot. Last week, we heard Shaul Mofaz scaring Iran and the whole world, and the guys said he's a macho man; there aren't many like him since they canceled the Kol Ra'am radio broadcasts from Cairo. We even enjoyed hearing our Fuad [Benjamin Ben-Eliezer] this week; he's a great guy, calling for "dealing Gaza a death blow." It's good that there are still people like this man around; the guys were enthusiastic. It's good that there are Jews who are like the Arabs of the good old days, like Ahmed Shukeiry - that's what the guys said, though I have no idea who Shukeiry is. Avi Dichter and Haim Ramon and Meir Sheetrit are well-liked here, too, it is important to note.

"And finally, my dear parents, I have a request: that Mofaz not get distracted on the way to Iran. The Israel Defense Forces have missed targets before, more than once, and Gaza is too small for a small atom bomb. And that Fuad, with his "death blow," allow the sun to rise between Gaza and Rafah, because without a sunrise, there also can't be a beautiful sunset. And then I won't have anything left to look at in the evenings, and nothing to enjoy.

"Love you and miss you, Gilad."