In a unique show of solidarity, a delegation of 70 Italians, including 24 members of the Italian Parliament visited Sderot this past Monday, December 8. The Italian delegation brought with them a copy of a letter, written by members of the Italian Parliament, addressed to Gilad Schalit, the IDF solider captured two years ago who remains in the hands of Hamas in Gaza.
Photo: Hamutal Ben Shitrit
In a press conference facilitated by Sderot Media Center, the Italian delegation, which included members from various Italian political parties, presented the letter to a representative of the Schalit family, Medi Cohen. Rossana Boldi, President of the Committee on European Affairs, and acting as representative of the group, stated that the letter had been signed by many important members of the Italian Parliament in the hopes of getting the International Red Cross in Rome to hand the letter to Gilad Schalit.
Boldi cited during the press conference that the International Red Cross had not paid one visit to Gilad Schalit since his capture, and continues to ignore the plight of Sderot residents living under Palestinian rocket fire.
“Israel has a right to exist in security,” said Boldi, “and Gilad Schlit has every right to return home.”
Medi Cohen, speaking on behalf of the Schalit family, responded by stating that a week previously she and other Gilad Schalit supporters protested in front of the Shikma Prison in Ashkelon, which houses Hamas terrorists. “You could see Palestinian mothers freely entering the prison to visit their imprisoned sons. These Hamas terrorists are treated fairly and according to international law–they receive free medical treatment and proper care from Israeli authorities,” said Cohen. “Gilad on the other hand, has been denied everything. Hamas prevents any form of communication with Gilad from the outside word. Gilad has not been allowed to even speak with his family for two years,” said Cohen bitterly.
David Bouskilla, Sderot’s recently elected mayor was also present at the press conference and warmly welcomed the Italian delegation to Sderot. “The city of Sderot has strong ties with the Italian community,” Bouskilla stated. When Bouskilla was mayor of Sderot eight years ago, he oversaw the building of the only rocket-protected theater in the entire Negev which was funded partly by the Italian Keren Hayesod.
Photo: Hamutal Ben Shitrit
Mayor Bouskilla also added that Sderot residents have been standing alone in the face of continuing Palestinian rockets. “Our children and families are forced to sit and accept this situation, as rockets continue to hit our homes, properties, playgrounds and schools,” said Bouskilla. “It is more important than ever to have the support of the international community, especially from a country like Italy” he told the Italian delegation.
Indeed, it was both encouraging and inspiring to see the concern exhibited by the Italian government officials for Sderot civilians in light of the 200 or more Qassam rockets that have been fired against Sderot and the Negev since early November. During the brief stop at the Sderot police station, where hundreds of Qassam rockets are stored away, the Italian delegation expressed their shock at the way life in Sderot has dramatically altered due to the terror generated by Palestinian rocket fire. “It is disturbing to think how Israeli children must live in this kind of reality,” said one Italian official.
In the scheme of world affairs, Sderot children at least have a few friends back in the Italian Parliament.