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svgadminsvgOctober 18, 2011svgNews

Ex-POW: You Never Forget Being Held Captive

Now that Gilad Shalit has returned home, he will need much assistance and support, an ex-POW told Arutz Sheva on Tuesday.

Uri Shahak was an IDF pilot who was captured by the Syrians during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Today, he heads an organization named Erim Balaila (meaning Awake at night in Hebrew), which accompanies and assists IDF soldiers who spent time in captivity.

“We accompany 450 soldiers who were held captive and we hope that Gilad Shalit will also join us,” Shahak told Arutz Sheva. “The organization helps them to go on with their lives. The return home is not simple. I cannot tell exactly what Gilad went through in captivity, but as someone who was held captive, I know what happened to me and to other members in the organization. The experience in captivity does not leave you, even after you come back home. The scars stay and follow you.”

Shahak explained that a person who was forced to be alone for so long suffers trauma, but added that the defense establishment knows to cope with prisoners better than it did during the Yom Kippur War.

“I hope that Gilad will be looked after better than we were,” he said. “I’m glad that the media is being asked to stay away. When I came back to my wife and son, the media surrounded us and I kept waiting for the opportunity to go home to be alone with them. When you are in captivity you spend so much time alone and you withdraw into yourself, and to suddenly face this mayhem is not simple.”

Shahak said the difficulty about being in captivity, besides the torture, is the loneliness.

“I was held captive for eight months in Syria, under severe torture, but the loneliness was much more difficult,” he said. “That’s why a person who comes back needs some quiet. I am convinced that Gilad will speak with psychologists who will support him. I’ve sent a message to the Shalit family saying we’re available to them and that we will wait for them to turn to us.

“We have an opportunity to help him through support groups,” Shahak pointed out. “It’s sometimes easier to communicate with other people who have had a similar experience.”

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