The mood here is euphoric. It has been a beautiful Sukkot in every way, including the weather: sunny but not hot. Parades and celebration on every street and alleyway.
But today the volume of the simcha has tangibly increased to new heights. Everyone is celebrating the release of Gilad ben Aviva Shalit, for whom we have all been praying fervently for about six years. Today, I stood with a diverse crowd in front of a TV screen in the local makolet, and we breathlessly awaited Gilad's first step back on Israeli soil.
True, everyone is realistic about the dangers of so many released murderous terrorists. No one here is naïve or foolish. But right now that concern is on the back burner, and the country is united in rare fashion. So many parents identify with his parents, so many soldiers identify with Gilad, and all of us feel that our own son has returned home.
Yes he looks malnourished and frighteningly pale. But he also looks brave and courageous and fully aware of the miracle that has befallen him.
This Sukkot, "zman simchatenu" has taken on a new meaning. We hope and pray that the feeling of unity which now pervades the nation will endure, and become the basis upon which we will build all that we dream of building, and achieve a real and lasting peace.
Moadim l'simcha from the Holy and happy Land.
Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb
OU Executive Vice President, Emeritus