Azzam Azzam is a Druze citizen of Israel from the town of Maghar in the Galilee. While on a visit to Egypt, he was arrested in 1996 and tried for espionage, and was sentenced to 15 years in jail in 1997, though he continues to protest his innocence. In 2004, the Israeli government obtained his release in a prisoner exchange.
On his release, Azzam Azzam told Prime Minister Sharon: "Mr. Prime Minister, thank you very much, I love you very much and I don't know how to express this. This is only thanks to you. I don't have the words to thank you for your determination. I told my brothers that if I'm not released while Arik Sharon is Prime Minister, I would never be released. I am fortunate and proud to have been born in Israel."
The following year, Azzam lit a a torch in the Israel independence day ceremony in honor of Israelis who have fallen in battle.
When Ariel Sharon fell ill, Azzam Azzam visited him and wrote a letter that was published, in which he said:
I was imprisoned in an Egyptian jail and half dead for eight years and one month. You rescued me and brought me back to life.
I was released because of you and I will appreciate it for the rest of my life. I will never forget what you did for me, and if it would help, I would give you my kidney.
My wife was with you in your office when you were chosen as prime minister. You promised her that you would not set foot on Egyptian soil as long as I was imprisoned. Improved relations with Egypt were based on the condition that I would be released.
I feel close to you, call you on Jewish festivals, wish you happy holidays and wait for your call on Druze holidays.
When Corporal Gilad Shalit was kidnapped and held in Gaza in June of 2006, Azzam visited his family to offer support. He said:
“From my personal experience I can say that these are difficult hours for Gilad. He must believe in God and in the fact that there is a government, an entire nation and a warm and loving family waiting for his safe return home.”
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