Over 2,000 march in call to return soldier’s body to Israel

Over 2,000 hikers participated in the fifth annual Yavne’el March on Saturday morning, calling on the government to work to return IDF soldier Oron Shaul, who was killed during 2014’s Operation Protective Edge and whose body was snatched by Hamas.

Israelis from all over the country, particularly from northern Israel, as well as Shaul’s family members and soldiers from the Golani Brigade – where Shaul served – joined the march. Many wore T-shirts with Shaul’s photo and stickers calling for his return.

The march started in moshav Yavne’el and ended at a lone oak tree, dubbed “Golani’s Oak,” in the heart of the moshav’s farm lands. There, the marchers met with Oron Shaul’s parents, Herzl and Zehava, and his brother Aviram.

Mother Zehava was very emotional by the gesture. “All of the people of Israel should know that all of these people have come here to bring Oron back. I want all of the people of Israel to know that Oron went to defend the homeland that he loved so much, and right now he is being held by Hamas,” she said.

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Zehava also turned to the government: “Come on, the Israeli government and the defense minister – do it. Don’t let us wait so long, I’m counting on you.”

Zehava’s cousin, Ze’ev Eliyahu, was also touched by the show of solidarity. “I also came to show my support and I hope the message is passed on, and we’ll get to see Oron return to his mother soon,” he said.

Many of the marchers were employees of the Israel Discount Bank, where Zehava worked before retiring. “It’s emotional to see the people of Israel united like this,” said Ortal from Kiryat Haim. “It’s a very beautiful, unifying thing, and I hope this affair also comes to an end and we can leave this behind us.”