Jonas really loves Gabriel.
In the community where Jonas was born and raised, no one understands or has every experienced love. It is such a completely foreign concept that they actually consider the word outdated and no longer meaningful. They do not appreciate any strong emotion at all, and avoid emotions completely when they can. When Jonas becomes Receiver of Memory, his life changes forever. He learns to love, and he develops a deep bond with the Newchild Gabriel, who is like a brother to him.
In the early chapters of the book, we learn that feelings and emotions are tightly controlled in the community. They maintain Sameness through population control, and therefore there are no relationships that are not dictated by the community’s rules. There is no romantic love, and no love between parents and children either. Everything is transactional and bland. Sterile “family units” are created for the sole purpose of child-rearing, and they consist of one boy and one girl to the mother-father pair. The family is created by application by community Elders—everyone is placed there according to temperament, based on if he or she would be a good fit.
The community makes an exception for Gabriel, the Newchild Jonas’ father brings into their family unit. It is usually against the rules to bring another child home. Gabriel is also extended extra time instead of being released, which is what should happen to him because he is not meeting growth targets. Why are all of these concessions being made for Gabriel? It becomes clear when Jonas sees him for the first time.
It was the first thing Jonas noticed as he looked at the newchild peering up curiously from the basket. The pale eyes. (Ch. 3)
The fact that Jonas and Gabriel have the same pale eyes, when no one else in the community does, is a clue. Jonas and Gabriel share a special connection. Jonas does not know what it means yet, because he has not yet been chosen for his special assignment. All he knows is that he might be related to this baby. Later he learns what that means.
Jonas and Gabriel both have special abilities that the community needs. Jonas has the Capacity to See Beyond. Gabriel has this special ability, or something like it, too. It means that they both have the ability to receive memories. Jonas learns this accidentally, when he is comforting Gabe one day and sends him a memory without realizing it. After that, Jonas continues, in order to keep the baby calm.
Gabriel's breathing was even and deep. Jonas liked having him there, though he felt guilty about the secret. Each night he gave memories to Gabriel: memories of boat rides and picnics in the sun; memories of soft rainfall against windowpanes; memories of dancing barefoot on a damp lawn. (Ch. 16)
When Jonas sees the video of his father killing a newborn twin, and learns what release means, he is horrified and devastated. He is unable to go home, and face his father and the community. Unfortunately, that means that he is away from Gabe and doesn't know what is going on with him until it is too late. The baby is returned to the Nurturing center, where he is fretful and unable to sleep without Jonas, and they vote to release him.
Jonas cares about Gabriel deeply. When he learns that the baby is scheduled for release, he knows that he must save him. He is shocked that Gabe would be released, given all of the trouble they have gone through to help him. Apparently, the community’s patience will only go so far, even for someone as special as Gabe. Jonas runs away, taking the baby with him. He uses his ability to transmit memories to soothe Gabe.
Before he had left the dwelling, he had laid his hands firmly on Gabe's back and transmitted to him the most soothing memory he could: a slow-swinging hammock under palm trees ... As the memory seeped from him into the newchild, he could feel Gabe's sleep ease and deepen. (Ch. 21)
Jonas is risking his life to do this. He knows that, as valuable as he is, he will be “condemned” if he is found. Yet he refuses to allow Gabriel to face the fate he saw the newborn twin go to in the video. He will save Gabe if he can. That is love. It is selfless devotion, and it is an emotion that no one else in the community would ever begin to understand.
The connection between Jonas and Gabriel is one of the most important elements of Jonas's character development. As he learns his new role, and learns about his community, he also grows as a person and becomes more nurturing and mature. The brotherly relationship he develops with Gabriel is one from the old world, the one of the memories. It mirrors the relationship he has with The Giver, which is more of a father-son relationship. In a world with no love and no affection, Jonas desperately needs this secret brotherly bond. He needs someone to love.