June 24, 2010 | 6:31 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
Nothing the Israeli government has done has freed Gilad Shalit.
Rabbi Shmuelly Hecht thinks he can help.
Things go down better with honey than with vinegar, and the Yale University-based rabbi has a very sweet deal for the residents of Gaza: help free the captured Israeli soldier, and you’ll receive $5 million dollars.
On his web site, millionsforgiladshalit.org, the bearded Hecht has a video of him seated on a couch, slightly slouched, wearing a velvet yarkulke and a rumpled pink button down shirt. Hecht reads his offer off a sheet a paper:
I am a man of faith, not of politics—and come with just one request: release Gilad Shalit to his family. In exchange for this demonstration of your humanity and generosity, I will reciprocate in kind. I have arranged for $5m of humanitarian goods to be delivered to the people of Gaza to be delivered simultaneously with Gilad’s freedom. Food, medicine, building supplies—whatever humanitarian goods those who deliver Gilad to his family decide will most benefit the people of Gaza will be delivered through a party that we can all respect and work with.
So far, Hecht told jewishjournal.com, about 3,000 people have clicked onto his site, which just went live this week. A few hundred have signed the accompanying petition calling on Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, to release Shalit. The Israeli airman was captured by Hamas four years ago this week. Since his capture, Hamas has provided only two indications that Gilad is still alive – a recorded message of his voice released on June 25, 2007, and a video of him released on October 2, 2009. Hamas has refused to allow the International Red Cross to visit Shalit, and is holding him in solitary confinement.
One of the aims of the 2009 Gaza War was to free Shalit, which Israel failed to do.
But Hecht is adamant that his monetary offer is not a capitulation to terrorists.
“This is not an offer to the leaders of Hamas,” he told jewishjournal.com. “This is an offer to the people of Gaza, the people who claim to need humanitarian aid, and an offer to the religious leaders who claim to revere life, to help us redeem this captive.”
Asks whether his effort contravenes Israeli policy not to negotiate with terrorists, Hecht says he believes it does not. “This is philanthropy,” he said. Nor does he fear it will put Shalit’s life in danger. To the contrary, he believes it will raise awareness and increase the chances Shalit will be freed.
“I’m doing this for his family,” he said.
Hecht, a 35 year old father of 6 children, is a native of Forest Hills, Queens. He established the Yale Jewish student club, the Eliezer Society, in 1997. He grew up in a Sephardic synagogue, and his self-described “basic” understanding of Farsi and Arabic enabled him to poist translations of his plea in both those languages on the site, as well as on YouTube.
Hecht said the $5 million is “real,” offered by philanthropists around the country, though he wouldn’t provide the names.
“They produce Gilad Shalit,” said Hecht, “and I’ll produce the money.”
Watch the video here:
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