To Speak or Not To Speak

By: Shayna Darling  |  November 21, 2012

Contrary to popular belief, there is in fact one thing that can bring together nearly every single Yeshiva University student, and that is Gilad Shilat. Our generation of young Jews and Zionists look to Gilad with the admiration fitting for the hero and inspiration that he is. Admittedly, Shalit does not fall under the standard definition of a hero, one who has made an active decision to fight for a cause and stand up for what is right; rather, his status as a hero was thrust upon him. Shalit in his humility would be unlikely to consider himself a hero for the situation that was thrust upon him, for living through an unbearable situation.. Yet around the world as Jews stumble in the pitch dark of exile and any bit of  harmony for the Jewish people seems, sadly, to be fleeting, Shalit is a beacon of light that gives us all hope, and makes us all proud to be Jews. He is a dream fulfilled, a face that many thought would remain only on bumper stickers and posters but made its way into the daylight once again. He may not have chosen to be a hero, but he truly is one. He made it through a situation with a strength that I think most of us could not muster in a similar situation.

With that said, it follows naturally that the news of Gilad Shalit speaking at Yeshiva University spread like fire around campus and ignited widespread excitement. In the days leading up to the event I never heard a student say that they were not going to the event. It was the natural, reasonable, decision to make. Why wouldn’t we want to see the face and hear the voice of such a hero? Every day the number of those attending grew rapidly, and on the day of the event people hurried to arrange transportation and book shuttles for the occasion.

I am not going to comment on the logistics of the event, the transportation, the lack of space to accommodate the entire student body, or even the moments that were lost in translation (literally). Every event has its flaws, and to focus on them would detract from the intrinsic value of the event, not to mention undermine the efforts of those who helped such an event take place. However, there was one flaw-if I could call it as -that characterized the whole event, and is the reason that I am writing this article.

Gilad Shalit didn’t speak. By the end of the night, the complaints about his silence sounded like fireworks. Even before the event’s conclusion, some people made their way out of the room upon realizing that the event was ending and Shalit had yet to speak. The following day consisted of comments in elevators and classrooms, remarks by teachers that attempted to shed light on the situation, and an email from the school. It is true that many enjoyed the event but simply felt slighted by the advertising. However, others expressed their dislike of it, and would not have gone if they knew Shalit wasn’t speaking.

Why, though, do we allow his not speaking to ruin the event? Does a hero need to stand up in front of many, collecting the accolades of his strength and hearing applause at his words, to be a hero? We think that the individual’s job is to openly remark on their greatness and accept the praise given by others. But that’s not true. Whether Gilad Shalit came to Yeshiva University or not, whether he speaks in front of crowds or not, his title of hero cannot be revoked.

To hear a celebrity speak is largely for our own satisfaction; to have a celebrity who is the inspiration of many sit in a packed hall hearing his peers give him praise is for his own benefit. And after five years in captivity, what else should we be asking Shalit to give us, when he gave up his own freedom for Israel- for the home of the Jewish people?

So maybe we missed the chance to update our Facebook statuses and tweets to tell everyone that we are ‘listening to Gilad Shalit speak at YU.’ But that is frivolous. It is enough that he is home, it is enough that he sat in Yeshiva University smiling, surrounded by those that care about him. I don’t understand the actions of those who left early because Gilad didn’t speak. Just because he didn’t address us doesn’t mean we shouldn’t show support for him. Of course I, like many others would have loved to hear Shalit speak. But his presence alone was an inspiration, and it was something that most of us did not think would ever happen. So, Gilad, keep smiling. We all eagerly await the day you address crowds of your fans; but regardless, we are all here cheering you on.