“I will be grateful for the rest of my life,” freed Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit told supporters in a pre-recorded message on Saturday night.
A group of 300 activists were invited to a reception hosted by the Shalit family north of Tel Aviv at Kibbutz Shefayim, where the Shalit’s thanked them for their service. There, they watched a video address by Gilad.
“I am pleased to have the chance to speak to you and to thank you for all the you did throughout the years of my captivity,” he said. “I know without a doubt that your ongoing resolute struggle for my release, each one according to his or her abilities, along with the persistence and support of my family throughout the long journey, was one of the deciding factors in the decision to bring me home,” he said.
Shalit was released in a deal between Israel and the Hamas terror organization in October, in which Shalit was exchanged for 1,026 terrorists after over 5 years in captivity.
Among the criminals for whom he was swapped were individuals who personally carried out acts of murder and terror on Israeli civilians and military personnel. The first part of the exchange occurred in October, when 477 criminals were released, many to Judea and Samaria, many to Gaza, and some to Arab strongholds in Jerusalem. The remaining 549 are expected to be freed on December 18. Two terrorists have already been re-arrested.
The evening included a statement from Gilad’s father, Noam. Noam was the driving force of the movement to free Gilad, and supported the campaign to exchange him for terrorists.
While Noam told supporters that Gilad “is finding it difficult to process so much information” about the campaign to free him, Noam said Gilad will be exposed to the story over time.
Shimshon Libman, the chief organizer of the campaign, thanked Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for his “brave decision” to approve the convict exchange agreement.