Gilad Shalit attends B'nai B'rith Europe Young Jewish Adults Forum in London at World Center invitation
Gilad Shalit, the 26 year old former Israeli soldier who was released one year ago after spending over five-and-a-half years in Gaza incommunicado after being abducted by Hamas in a cross-border raid in October 2006, traveled to London on November 15 as guest of honor of the sixth annual B'nai B'rith Europe Young Jewish Adults Forum (YJAF).
B'nai B'rith World Center director Alan Schneider, who extended the invitation to Shalit and accompanied him during the visit, traveled with him from Israel together with childhood friend Ben Drori. Shalit's visit to London began only a day after one of his principal captors - Hamas military head Ahmed Jabari - was killed in an IDF air raid following incessant Hamas rocket attacks against Israeli civilian population centers.
Over 170 young people from 20 western and eastern European countries including Russia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Hungary, Slovakia and Serbia, France, Holland and Great Britain – many of whom had participated in the campaign for Shalit’s release - attended the three-day event and had the opportunity to interact with him. At the outset of the YJAF gala dinner, Shalit thanked the group for their warm reception and received honorary B'nai B'rith membership from international president Allan J. Jacobs and B'nai B'rith Europe president Ralph Hoffman.
Accompanied by Hofmann and YJAF initiators John Reevs, Simone Hofmann and Schneider, Ralph and Shalit met at the Foreign and Commonwealth office with MP Alistair Burt, Minister for Middle East and North Africa and MP Mike Freer for representing the heavily Jewish Finchey and Golders Green neighborhoods. Burt said that he and other concerned MPs ensured that Gilad’s plight was raised in Parliament every week of his incarceration. Shalit was also feted by Israeli ambassador to Great Britain Daniel Taub at a private meeting and reception at his residence with the participation of many local Jewish and non-Jewish Londoners who were active in the campaign for his release, including Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. Both the Chief Rabbi and Ambassador Taub spoke movingly of Gilad as a symbol of Israeli and Jewish values that places the life of one of its soldiers above the potential threat from the release of over 1,000 convicted terrorists.
Schneider made a presentation to the YJAF participants on the activities of the World Center. As a keen football fan and sports writer for Yedioth Ahronoth, Shalit also attended the Premiership derby between Arsenal and Tottenham.
YJAF program combined an in-depth discussions on Jewish values along with an opportunity for the participants to socialize with their peers from all over Europe while providing insight into B’nai B’rith’s work and goals. The program this year featured addresses by B'nai B'rith International executive vice president Daniel Mariaschin and Ishmael Haldi, Counselor for Civil Society Affairs at the Israel Embassy in London and the first Bedouin diplomat in Israel's history.
News of the visit appeared in the Jewish Chronicle, Jewish News and Yedioth Ahronoth.
B'nai B'rith World Center
The B'nai B'rith World Center in Jerusalem is the hub of B'nai B'rith International activities in Israel. The Center serves as the key link between Israel and B'nai B'rith members and supporters around the world.