On June 25, 2006 I was in Israel on the 10-day Birthright Israel program. Little did I know when I woke up that morning that it would be a day that I (and tens of thousands of other Israelis) would never forget. Our group intended to spend the the day relaxing in Eilat, enjoying the sun and snorkeling in the warm water. By breakfast time, we had received the news. I can still recall the sullen and heavy faces of our tour guide and fellow Israeli soldiers, who seemed to fully grasp the gravity of what had just happened and what was yet to come.
Gilad Shilat, a young Corporal in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) Armor Corps, was on duty near the Kerem Shalom crossing when he was brutally abducted by Hamas terrorists in a violent cross-border raid near the Gaza border in Israel that left several dead. Shockingly, five long and painful years have passed since this time, and this innocent young soldier still remains in captivity in the Gaza Strip. It is one of Israel's most forlorn topics. The negotiations over his release have been bargained over for the last five years. During that time, the only contact between Gilad and the outside world has been three letters, one audio tape and one DVD released to Israel in exchange for freeing 20 Palestinian prisoners.
In exchange for his release, Hamas is demanding the release of all female and underage Palestinian prisoners held in Israel and another 1,000 prisoners (many of whom have been convicted by Israeli courts on terrorism charges). As you can see, the negotiations go nowhere, neither side wanting to give in to the other's demands.