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B A LT I M O R E J E W I S H H O M E . C O M

THE BALTIMORE JEWISH HOME

MARCH 22, 2018

76

With Gilad Shalit

– Shin and Yud form the name Shai. Later that day, Idi Amin Dada, the President for Life of Uganda, came to visit the Jewish hostages with his son. It was evident to all that the leader of Uganda was fully cooperating with the Palestinian and German terrorists throughout the whole ordeal. With Shabbat approaching and still being held hostage, Shai remembers standing with his mother near a window and looking at two stars in lieu of two Shabbos candles and making the blessing that Jewish women have been making for generations. Shai’s mother also spoke about her two other sons who were older than Shai and had remained with the grandparents in Israel. That Shabbat of captivity was Parshat Chukat and the Chief Rabbi at the time, Rabbi Shlomo Goren, had written a special prayer to be said in all the shuls of Israel during this tense time. Shai’s grandmother had gone to shul to say the tefilla. According to what Shai knows, his grandmother left the ezrat nashim, entered the men’s praying section, went up to the Aron Hakodesh, threw herself on the Torah scrolls and uttered the blessing, pleading to G-d to safely release the

With President Peres

hostages. The whole congregation wept along with her. Shai believes with all his heart that this blessing uttered by his grandmother, begging for rachmanus, is what touched G-d, opening Shaar Shamayim. It was Motzei Shabbat between July 3 and July 4, 1976, just before midnight, when the shooting started. Shai and his parents

take to kill 100 Jews?” But suddenly, an Israeli soldier stuck his head into the room, and his father yelled out in Hebrew that they were Israelis. The soldier picked him up and covered Shai with a blanket so that he wouldn’t see the deadly carnage outside the room as Shai was taken with his parents directly to the first IDF evacuation plane. “After a few moments,

With Gilad Shalit

town of Givat Shmuel just outside of Tel-Aviv, 40 years later, Shai is now a grown adult with four children of his own. As he collects his thoughts and shares his life-changing experience, it becomes evident from the very beginning that for Shai, Entebbe has become forever embedded in his thoughts. He is never truly free of the ramifications of the trauma he experienced

“After a few moments, we realized that we were being rescued by the IDF. That dramatic rush from desperation to salvation … that is a joy I will never forget.”

thought that the terrorists had started executing the hostages. There was chaos, darkness, smoke, shooting in all directions. His parents took him into an adjacent room, put him under a mattress and both parents laid on the mattress so as to protect Shai with their bodies. Shai remembers feeling a sense of choking and being unable to breathe. The shooting was continuing for way too long; Shai remembers his father asking rhetorically, “How long does it

we realized that we were being rescued by the IDF. That dramatic rush from desperation to salvation … that is a joy I will never forget.” Shai recollects that on the plane not far from where he sat was the covered body of a soldier, Yoni Netanyahu z”l, the fallen commander of the rescue forces. In Shai’s own words, only then did his life really begin. Taking a leap in time, sitting with Shai in a friendly coffee shop in the sleepy

as the youngest hostage of Entebbe. For Shai, Entebbe is intertwined with his personal identity, and with his personal destiny in life. Every year, when attending the memorial service of Yoni Netanyahu z”l, rubbing shoulders with the younger brother, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, or requesting to speak before an audience about the Entebbe hijacking throughout the year, he becomes a living testament of those frightening few days, highlight-

ing that he and a whole nation were able to overcome then and now any and all threats to Israel at home and abroad. No one threatening Israel is immune from retribution or accountability. Entebbe has become a symbol of Israel’s national heroism, eliciting admiration and even envy. Israel, the small and struggling nation, fighting for her existence even before her establishment, was able to show the world how to combat and respond to Palestinian and international terror way before the world realized that by condoning Palestinian terror against Israel, the world has empowered today’s radical Islam to attack the West. On a personal level, Shai has been able to translate his unique life experience into a few simple words: to help others and to give of himself. Immersing himself into the public movement to release Gilad Shalit from his imprisonment in the Gaza Strip became one of Shai’s two passions to help others. Shai acknowledges the immense differences between Entebbe and the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, but on a personal level, he knows that Gilad underwent a horrifying experience and he knows the kind of help and accompaniment he would need

Baltimore Jewish Home - 3-22-18  

Baltimore Jewish Home - 3-22-18

Baltimore Jewish Home - 3-22-18  

Baltimore Jewish Home - 3-22-18

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