Recently we celebrated the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, a time of repentance and renewal, of recognizing our failings and the trials of the past, and then looking ahead to the future. This Rosh Hashanah was Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit’s first New Year at home after being held captive for more than five years by Hamas terrorists. Gilad endured the most brutal and painful of circumstances imaginable, and yet even as he copes with the nightmares of his captivity, he continues to look to the future and move forward with hope.
In a recent op-ed, Gilad Shalit shares his inspirational message:
Rosh Hashanah symbolizes a beginning – the possibility to experience new things or reliving past experiences. But most of all, I believe Rosh Hashanah symbolizes new opportunities. For me, the past year has been the year in which I went back to living like regular people do. I returned to my family, I went back to having a social life and I rehabilitated myself, both physically and mentally.
This was a very intense year, during which I met many people, visited many places and experienced things I never even dreamt of experiencing… On the other hand, I realize that these trips, events and encounters with people on the street – these will not be part of my future, routine life. It won’t go on forever, this making up for lost time. For me, this lifestyle is temporary, and I plan to gradually return to a calmer way of life.
I take the train like everyone else, walk around freely and am thrilled to see how people respond to me. Some cry when they meet me, some embrace me and others look at me in shock as if I had just fallen from the moon. Someone even asked me if I’m Gilad Shalit’s brother. Strangely enough, in Tel Aviv I can walk in relative peace. I’m least recognized in the big city, despite the fact that it is so crowded and bustling.
During the past year and the previous years in captivity, I have learned to look at things from a different perspective. In general, I try to see the glass as half full, and this is also what I wish for the people and the State of Israel. People can suddenly find themselves in extreme situations or unexpected crises. I believe people should prepare themselves mentally for the possibility that such situations may arise. Even if they are not certain what they are preparing for, they should be aware that things can change dramatically at any given moment. This awareness helps people cope with such changes.
If and when such an extreme situation arises, you must deal with it as calmly as possible and avoid doing things you will regret later. You must overcome. Crying won’t help. And always remember that it is possible to get out of any bind. This is true for many things – diseases, injuries or crises. There is no point in regretting what happened; you must look to the future and think of the next stage of your life. Faith can help of course, but it must be accompanied by an awareness of reality. This will help you overcome disappointment.
So what’s next for me in the new year? I would like to begin studying, but before that I want to take a long trip to places where I would be surrounded by nature; where I could enjoy the scenery, see less people and breathe as much air as possible.