For nearly 1,900 days, Noam and Aviva Shalit have been unable to hug their son. They have not heard his voice, seen his face, or even had the small comfort of knowing that he is alive.
Their son, Staff Sgt. Gilad Shalit, has been held in captivity by Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization, since June 25, 2006. In direct violation of international law and the terms of the Third Geneva Convention, Shalit has been denied the rights of prisoners of war, including visits from the International Committee of the Red Cross, and contact with his family.
Luckily, though, there are also many who continue to champion Shalit's cause; individuals who devote themselves to advocating for his release and ensuring that he remains a priority to decision-makers around the world.
Advocacy on behalf of Shalit has taken many forms. His parents, extended family and supporters have set up a "protest tent" outside of the official home of the Israeli prime minister, where they hold a constant vigil for their son, and pass out information about him, his abduction, and their goals for his rescue. Many supporters have utilized social media in their efforts, and Twitter campaigns to draw awareness to Shalit run throughout the year, with particular pushes around the times of his birthday and the anniversary of his abduction. And, in an impressive show of support, the city of Pittsburgh has joined several other communities around the globe in bestowing honorary citizenship upon Shalit. Pittsburgh has joined Paris, Rome, Miami, New Orleans, and Baltimore in granting Shalit honorary citizenship. This important gesture demonstrates that the fate of Gilad Shalit is not something that just matters to Israelis, or Jews. It is a matter of global concern; an offense to all individuals who believe in justice and the upholding of international law.
Pittsburgh can be proud to consider Shalit a part of the community, and Pittsburghers likewise should be proud that the city has taken this important measure of standing up for what is right and just.
In flagrant disregard for the internationally recognized protocols dealing with prisoners of war, Shalit's most basic human rights have been violated. We must all take up his cause, and be the voice for this silenced soldier.
(The author is the young leadership program associate for the American Zionist Movement, University of Pittsburgh.)