President Shimon Peres visited the home of the Shalit family on Monday morning in the first official visit since the return of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
Gilad and his parents waited for the president at the entrance to their home and shook his hand warmly. The president hugged Gilad and told him: "You have no idea how excited I am to meet you here, in your home, alive and well."
"The entire nation has followed your progress with concern, we were all thinking of what you were going through alone, in the dark and how you were managing to deal with the disconnection, loneliness and uncertainty. Where did your incredible internal strength come from."
"As a man, as a human, you have passed the test of harsh captivity that not many people could endure. Gilad, know that the entire nation, from infants to senior citizens enlisted to bring you home.
"It came from a depth of love and devotion and your return is an extraordinary personal and national event. When you stepped off the helicopter, we were all relieved."
"Be strong and have courage, your whole life is ahead of you and you can, now and in the future achieve anything you like."
Gilad told the president:
"Thank you for all the support and help that you gave to my family."
Noam added: "We appreciate and thank you for all that you have done throughout the years. We know that you were involved behind the scenes and we needed any help we could get."
Aviva Shalit reinforced the president's statements and said: "Gilad is a true hero". She then added: "I want to thank you for coming to our home and for your warm words to Gilad.
"I would once again like to thank the prime minister for making a brave decision in bringing Gilad home alive and proving that mutual obligation is not just an empty phrase but a value, and I believe that the entire Israeli nation agrees," she noted.
After Peres left, Noam Shalit said Gilad was aware of the public's support and the many visitors who have arrived at the family home in recent days, bringing flowers, candy and personal souvenirs.
"He has seen the people and appreciates it. He knows about the widespread public support during the years of the struggle. He is aware of it and is grateful for it," Noam Shalit said.
Regarding Gilad's reaction to the president's visit, the former captive soldier's father said, "He doesn’t talk much but feels the appreciation, as was also demonstrated by the fact that the president personally came here. He could have also invited him to his residence in Jerusalem."
Commenting on his condition, Noam Shalit noted that Gilad was feeling good and mainly wishes to return to normal. "The main thing that we ask for at this time, and so does Gilad, is to quickly return to old habits – playing basketball and ping-pong, watching television. That's the only thing we are seeking and we hope the public will understand this."