For the student activists at the Frisch School in Paramus, the prospect that Gilad Shalit might be returning home after years of captivity was thrilling.
All the students at Frisch had prayed for Shalit’s release. A psalm was recited daily on his behalf.
For some students, however, advocacy for Shalit was an extracurricular avocation.
"It’s pretty unbelievable, because it’s so sudden," said Michaela Elias on Tuesday afternoon, shortly after Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s startling announcement. "Right now we can only continue praying like we’ve been doing for five years."
Michaela, a 17-year-old senior, along with her sister Tali, a 16-year-old junior, had written a song and created a website advocating for Shalit’s release.
Assuming Shalit is released, "I think a lot of prayers will have been answered. It’s a testimony to the power of prayer and unity and advocacy," she said.
She said for the years of working for his release, "the hardest part was to keep going with it and to try and try again even though we weren’t seeing immediate results. You have to keep believing that something might change. It’s not easy to keep hoping or believing, but you have to because he is still in captivity; you have to believe he will be released," she said.
Her sister, Tali, said she was "amazed" at the possibility of Shalit’s freedom.
"I’ve never really seen a cause that stood out so much. Every single person knew Gilad Shalit’s name, and that this was a cause that needed to be addressed. Nobody forgot about him, everyone wanted to do whatever they could to help," she said.
Eric Tepper, a 17-year-old senior, was one of the organizers this past year of "The Fifth Son Project," designed to remember Shalit at the Passover seder.
Tepper said he looked forward to "a great celebration" when Shalit is free.
And he hoped that Shalit would make it home before Sukkot began with its three-day news blackout.
"We also shouldn’t forget that there are other captured soldiers as well," he added.