“Stars for Israel” is the brainchild of Maxwell Rotbart, a student at Metro State College of Denver.
Rotbart wants to know why Israel should be talking about prisoner swaps, when Gilad Shalit is denied basic human rights that should be unconditional.
“Why should Israel swap for Shalit before Israel gets word of Shalit’s basic condition — especially when you consider that the last prisoners swapped for were returned dead?”
That’s why Rotbart has begun his campaign to force the International Red Cross to verify Shalit’s living conditions — as it is required to do under international law, and which Hamas is obligated to do under international law.
As one talks to Rotbart, it becomes clear that much thought has gone into his project.
“It’s not realistic to petition Hamas, so what is realistic? To pressure the Red Cross, an oraganization that generally lives up to its mission, but has been conspicuously absent in the case of Gilad.
“Stars have always been symbolic for the Jewish people — the Magen David — and the color is for the Red Cross.”
Rotbart’s goal is simple but significant.
“We need to raise awareness. We want a steady flow of stars to the ICRC so that they know we, the American people, haven’t forgotten and neither should they.”
Rotbart visited Israel for two months this summer and went to the tents that the Shalit family has set up outside the Prime Minister’s office.
“I had the opportunity to shake hands and talk to the parents of Gilad, and that was one of the most meaningful parts of my entire trip.
“It’s a very solemn atmosphere in the tent and it reminds you of their pain and the pain of the Israeli people.
“That has really given me motivation to continue with Stars for Israel.”
Although he is founder of the project, Rotbart demonstrates his humility and his pure interest in the well being of Gilad when he talks about the project’s future.
“There’s no hierarchy here. I might have started it, but otherwise I have no further official involvement besides my regular participation —sending in the stars.
“Stars for Israel is for anyone who has the three minutes to create and mail in a star. I don’t need to know who it is. Any message written on the star is up to the individual; it’s a very personal project.”
Rotbart feels a personal connection to the cause.
“I just turned 19, the age of Gilad when he was captured. Thinking of this was another major factor that led me to start this project. Trying to picture myself in Gilad’s situation for the next five years of my life — it’s very scary.”
Copyright © 2011 by the Intermountain Jewish News