Some 10,000 Israelis have taken part in the first half of an 11-day march from northern Israel to Jerusalem to pressure the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to meet Hamas demands for the release of abducted soldier Gilad Shalit.
The processions is currently in the Haifa area after setting off from Mitzpe Hila in the far north on Sunday.
Netanyahu has invited the Shalit's to meet with him when they reach Jerusalem, and the couple says they will demand action and results. But Netanyahu, like Ehud Olmert before him, has been reluctant to acquiesce to Hamas demands that he free over 1,000 terrorists, many with blood on their hands, in return for Gilad's freedom.
Despite the massive public outpouring for the Shalits, many Israelis fear that setting free so many terrorists would result in a fresh wave of violence, and would certainly encourage Hamas to abduct even more soldiers.
Noam Shalit, Gilad's father, said that he understands the complications, but that after four years, he simply wants his son back.
Interestingly, the Obama Administration may help Netanyahu withstand the growing public pressure to treat with Hamas, though, as Israeli commentators pointed out, not for the right reasons. The White House is afraid that if Israel meets the Hamas demands, it will further strengthen the group in its rivalry with US-backed Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
Want more news from Israel?
Click Here to sign up for our FREE daily email updates