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Freed Israeli soldier a mystery despite exposure
“I don’t understand how you make an icon out of a soldier who was captured and then traded for so many murderers. Instead of putting that chapter away in a dark, little corner, they are turning him into an icon,” said Kehrmann. “He doesn’t interest me and I don’t want to hear about him. Every time I hear his name, it reopens the wound.”
Nine months after his release, the shine may be coming off the Schalit image.
“His legitimate choice to publish a sports column marks a new stage in the relationship between the Israel public and someone who until recently was been known as ‘everyone’s son,’” wrote Amir Ben-David, a columnist for the Walla news Web site. “It could mark the end of his immunity, his symbolic and practical extraction from the warmth and safety of the embracing consensus.”
The sports column, co-written with veteran Israeli media personality Arik Henig, is an informal discussion about random sporting debates, such as who is the best soccer goalie in the world, and which is the greatest basketball team ever.
Schalit is said to be a die-hard sports fan and has said he gained strength from sports during his captivity, keeping up to date on the rare occasions his captors allowed him to listen to radio or watch TV.
Other than that, he doesn’t appear to have any expertise, and his column has been dismissed by critics.
“Beyond his name, which is highlighted prominently, it is a column that doesn’t have much sporting value. The result has not been very interesting,” said Shlomo Mann, a sports critic for “The Seventh Eye,” an online Israeli media review.
For the most part, the normally aggressive Israeli media has surprisingly respected his request for privacy and generally portrays Schalit as Israel’s “national son” who can do no wrong after losing five years of his life.
Noam Schalit turned down an Associated Press request to interview his son, saying he was not yet ready to face the media — despite his public appearances and his own media presence.
Those close to Schalit also would not discuss his current state. Henig would not return phone calls, and the editor-in-chief of Yediot Ahronot declined comment, citing his privacy, as did a group that aids former prisoners of war.
“If Gilad chooses to be interviewed, that, of course, is his right,” responded Orly Lieberman, secretary of a nonprofit devoted to helping former POW’s. “Our choice is to allow him to rehabilitate his life without media coverage.”
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