Gilad Shalit receives a hero’s welcome from the UK

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks and Gilad Shalit (Photo: Yakir Zur)

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks and Gilad Shalit (Photo: Yakir Zur)

Gilad Shalit has made his first visit to Britain since spending five years as a prisoner at the hands of Hamas.

The former Israeli soldier thanked British Jews for their efforts to campaign for his release, took part in a conference and watched a Premier League football match during his four-night trip which ended earlier this week.

The visit came just days after the Israeli strike which killed Hamas military leader Ahmed Jabari, who masterminded Mr Shalit’s capture in June 2006.

Mr Shalit, 26, travelled to London to take part in a conference organised by B’nai B’rith UK. On Friday, Mr Shalit met members of the community, including London cabbies who had publicised his plight by putting his image on their taxis.

Lord Sacks said: “Every week for five-and-a-half years we prayed every Shabbat for Gilad, and we have been blessed to see you again.”

Mr Taub presented Mr Shalit with traditional British gifts including a box of tea and an umbrella .

He told him he had become “a symbol of something that is best about us as the Jewish people: how we can come together in support of the values that are so important to us, and particularly the value of a single human life which in our tradition is worth an entire world”.

On Friday evening Mr Shalit took part in a service at South Hampstead Synagogue and socialised with other conference participants. The following night Mr Shalit joined revellers at a gala evening at which he was presented with honorary membership of B’nai B’rith.

He also went to the Foreign Office to meet Middle East Minister Alistair Burt, who told him of the efforts made in Parliament to secure his release.

Mr Shalit also attended last weekend’s north London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham.

Last updated: 11:05am, November 23 2012