ROME (JTA) — Thousands of Italians cheered Gilad Shalit last week as the former captive Israeli soldier went to Rome’s City Hall, the Campidoglio, to officially receive honorary citizenship of the Eternal City.
“I thank you with all my heart for all you have done to obtain my liberation,” Shalit told the crowd during the emotional ceremony May 17. “I want to remember all other hostages imprisoned against their will, and I hope that they return home soon,” he said.
Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno, officially conferring honorary citizenship on Shalit, called him a “symbol of hope and of firmness against barbarism, hate and fundamentalism.”
Alemanno had championed the release of Shalit, who was kidnapped and held hostage for five years by Hamas. He declared Shalit an honorary citizen of Rome in 2009 and a large picture of Shalit was hung on the outside of the main building of the Campidoglio. Alemanno flew to Israel to meet with Shalit after the soldier was freed last year.