newsIsrael at War

Nearly 24,000 ask to free soldier held for taking enemy rifle as memento

"My son has been taken hostage by the State of Israel," his mother said.

IDF soldier Shalev Golan. Credit: Courtesy.
IDF soldier Shalev Golan. Credit: Courtesy.

IDF soldier Shalev Golan, wounded while fighting in the Gaza Strip, now sits in jail in Prison 10 near the town of Kfar Yona to wait out legal proceedings against him for having taken a Kalashnikov rifle as a souvenir.

The story has been gradually gaining attention in Israel as his mother makes the media rounds describing his treatment at the hands of the military court and prosecution, which has denied his family’s request to transfer him to house arrest as he still requires care for a head injury.

Golan suffered a severe concussion when a bullet entered his helmet, traveling from the front to the back, where it became embedded. He nevertheless continued fighting, after which he took as a souvenir the Kalashnikov used by the terrorist who shot him.

He did not take the entire rifle. He first emptied it of its internal mechanism, taking only the shell of the gun home.

He has been held in prison for two months on charges of taking IDF weaponry, looting and inappropriate behavior. He is not suspected of criminal intent, and has no criminal background, according to an online petition posted by his family.

The petition calls for Golan’s release “so that he can continue the rehabilitation treatment for his body and mind that he had begun before he was arrested.”

As of Tuesday, 23,598 people have signed the petition. His mother, Galit, said they want to reach 100,000.

During an appearance on Channel 14 last week, Galit described how her son was due to be released from the IDF just as Oct. 7 took place. He immediately volunteered to enter Gaza and continue his service.

He was wounded during fighting in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City.

When he returned home, his parents saw the gun and questioned him about it. Golan explained that it no longer had any internal parts and was just a memento. This reassured his mother, who said that she later realized she had made a mistake in thinking it was OK.

Galit Golan, whose son, IDF soldier Shalev Golan, was wounded in Gaza City, appearing on Channel 14. Source: YouTube/Screenshot.

Her son began weeks of MRI and CT scans along with treatment for his head injury. “His eyes still hurt him. His head still hurt him,” she said.

A month later, the Military Police paid the family a visit. “I was alarmed because my daughter is in the [IDF] reserves and I was afraid something had happened to her,” Galit said.

They said they had a search warrant, went up to Shalev’s room and saw the helmet, the bullet that had entered it and the rifle hung on the wall, along with five non-lethal stun grenades.

He found the grenades in mid-February near his hometown close to Jerusalem. His family said he planned to hand over the grenades to the police.

“There’s no question he made a mistake, that’s not the issue. The punishment he’ll receive, he’ll receive,” his mother said. “But now the boy needs urgent help.”

The Channel 14 anchor asked Galit if there was anything she was not sharing that could explain the military’s treatment of her son.

She assured him there was nothing in his background to warrant it, and his commanding officers had written letters to the court describing Shalev as an outstanding and esteemed soldier, who volunteered to fight in Gaza even though he had finished his service.

“The case should be treated as a one-time incident considering Shalev’s record, who excelled during his service,” his commanders wrote, Israel Hayom reported.

“I struggle to understand. It’s beyond my grasp,” his mother said, describing how the judge praised her son as a hero, saying how much he cared about his welfare, after which he sent him off to jail.

“My role as a mother is to help my son. There’s no one for me to turn to. I have no one to talk to. I spoke to the judge this week at one of the hearings. He said, ‘Excuse me, you can’t speak. You don’t have a side in the matter,'” Galit said.

Shalev is given seven minutes a day to speak to family and friends. She said his condition isn’t good and is deteriorating.

Her son doesn’t sleep at night and when he does he has a recurring nightmare, she said. In the dream, he’s in Shejaiya where he was shot. He faces the same terrorist. The terrorist looks him in the eyes. Only this time the terrorist kills him.

She said his knuckles are damaged because he punches the walls.

A psychiatrist still hasn’t seen him even though she has requested that one be sent.

“My son has been taken hostage by the State of Israel,” Galit said. “He’s a hero of Israel who was prepared to give his life and his spirit, and he almost gave them. But now when he needs help, everyone vanishes.”

She revealed that initially, the prosecution had demanded that her son be sentenced to one year’s imprisonment. “Does this sound logical to anyone?” she asked.

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