On July 25, 2006, Hamas terrorists penetrated into Israeli territory through an underground tunnel that runs from the Gaza town of Rafah to Kibbutz Kerem Shalom. The fanatics attacked the stationed Israeli soldiers, killing two and taking Cpl. Gilad Shalit hostage. Capturing Shalit while he was on guard, and not in the midst of a battle with Hamas troops, was Hamas’ first violation of International Humanitarian Law (under the Geneva Convention). In the ensuing nearly three years, Hamas has detained Shalit in an unknown location in Gaza territory. They refuse to allow personnel from the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit the soldier to assess his medical situation. Additionally, they continue to inhibit his ability to maintain a connection with his mourning family in Israel. These last two restrictions are examples of Hamas’ further breaches of humanitarian law.
After being inspired by a speech given by Karnit Goldwasser, the wife of another captured soldier, Ehud Goldwasser (may his memory be blessed), I launched Operation: Writes 4 Gilad. The campaign’s goal is to encourage people to send letters every day to three influential bodies to instigate them to take action on behalf of Gilad Shalit.
To kick off this effort, I drafted letters to the International Committee of the Red Cross, the United Nations and President Obama with arguments as to why each of them should do their utmost to ensure Shalit’s humane treatment and, ultimately, secure his safe return home.
The letter to the International Committee of the Red Cross urges it to fulfill its requirements to ensure that personnel are sent in to evaluate Shalit’s medical situation. In the letter to the United Nations I ask that it utilize its influence over the international community to mobilize the countries of the world to pressure Hamas into complying with humanitarian law. Another letter encourages President Obama to use the United States’ superpower status to influence other countries.
I, and a growing group of friends working on this project, have set up student leaders in schools in Los Angeles, New York, Denver, New Jersey and Memphis. Student leaders in several other schools, including schools in Florida, Baltimore, Chicago and Detroit have been contacted as well to distribute the letters to their student bodies.
Because the organizations we are targeting take action based on popular support, we felt it was important to nationalize the project. Since the letters are already written, we hope that if we distribute the letters to schools and Jewish organizations throughout the country, people will find the process so easy that they will send them every day.
This project is primarily geared toward high school and college students, to take action on Shalit’s behalf, to spread the message that contrary to popular belief, adults’ fundraising is not the only way to amend a devastating situation. We, as teenagers, are the next generation of adults, and it is high time that we demonstrate the impact we can have on the world. And, furthermore, while money can ameliorate many situations, our time and effort can often accomplish more.
Many people are now involved in this effort. With the collective connections of many of my friends, we were able to position the student leaders at various schools. With the help of Rabbi Avraham Lieberman, the YULA Girls principal, we connected with Torah Umesorah, an Orthodox day school umbrella organization. It agreed to send an e-mail to all the Jewish high schools in North America that includes the letters, a cover letter explaining the program, a flier and a request to station a student leader to send out the letters to the student body and announce updates about Shalit’s situation. We also set up a Facebook group for Operation: Writes 4 Gilad and created a Web site, writes4gilad.org.
Although this program is geared toward prompting high school students to get involved in the release of Gilad Shalit, all schools, synagogues, communities and individuals are urged to join the effort. Please e-mail me on the “contact me” page on the Writes4Gilad Web site.
This is not another fundraiser requesting a donation. I am asking you to take a minute out of your day to send an e-mail on behalf of a soldier who risked his life for our homeland. Please, please send the e-mails so that the international community will finally get involved and bring our soldier back to us.
Judith Greenbaum is a 10th-grader at YULA Girls High School.