He was snatched from obscurity as a 19 year-old corporal five years ago, when Gilad, now Sergeant Shalit was taken hostage by Hamas.
In six minutes their fighters had managed to spring from the earth itself , take out a tank and its crew, and get Shalit back inside Gaza. Two Israeli soldiers were also killed in the audacious attack, which involved a tunnel hundreds of metres long.
It was as though Shalit had been swallowed up, and he was little seen or heard from during his captivity. But back home the campaign for his release never wavered. 20 female Palestinian prisoners were handed over for a brief video message in 2009, but since then, nothing.
The long vigil made a figurehead of Shalit, one a nation could gather round.
“The struggle for Gilad Shalit…he became a symbol for value, of friendship and for the fact that we should not leave anyone behind us,” says the head of the Free Shalit campaign Shimshon Liebman.
Shalit’s parents say that before he became a symbol Gilad was like most boys, loving basketball, televison, and computer games. The young man returns to a very different world.