I wrote yesterday that, while I absolutely believe the prisoner trade that was made yesterday should never have happened (and that opinion holds!), I acknowledge the reality and enormity of the pain of the families involved, who are now able to have closure.
What we’re seeing with them is a demonstration of the sterling character of the people of the nation.
I focus first on the words of the Goldwasser family, at the funeral of Ehud this morning at the Nahariya Military Cemetery.
His widow, Karnit, spoke directly to him:
“On the twelfth of July, at nine hours and six minutes, time stopped. A journey began for you and me – for us, the family, and for the entire country. Now you and I move on to the next journey, the journey of my life. You will be a full partner in it, you will continue to be my inner voice, eternally young, accompanying me throughout my life. It will be lived without you, but forever you will be there.
“My love, they say that time heals and covers wounds. Is that so? Two years have passed since that one moment when, with a wave of a knife, the artery of our life together was cut. That moment, the worst of all, was turned into a horrible reality; a reality which forced all of us to sink into a dark and complicated world.
“Please forgive me, my darling husband, for not [talking about] your many virtues here, those which accompanied me every step of the way during the struggle for your return. This isn’t the place to do that.
“With your permission, the personal farewell I’ll do in my own time.”
Micki Goldwasser, the mother of Ehud, refused to cry at the funeral, declaring that she would save the crying for later. She said:
“We have discovered this nation to be a wonderful nation . We have found bereaved families with superior mental fortitude, we have found generosity. We have found the spirit of volunteering, the meaning of the word friendship. This is an amazing nation.
“I would like to salute the Arad family. I would like to salute the members of the Shahar family – it took great strength for them to come. And in particular, I would like to salute a great woman who has been my inspiration by standing up to all horrors with her head held high – Smadar Haran.”
[Eliyahu Shahar was one of the policemen killed by Kuntar during his rampage. And it was the husband and young daughter of Smadar who were massacred by Kuntar — Smadar’s ability to go on with her life has been a model of extraordinary strength and courage. For all of these people the return of Kuntar in this exchange was a grievous thing.]
“I turn to the Jewish nation and ask you to hold your head high in national pride.”
Eldad Regev was buried this afternoon at the Haifa Military Cemetery. At his funeral, his brother Ofer delivered these words:
“We lived in a world where we believed our enemy was exactly like us. “We thought we could speak to people who also wanted to raise a child, grow a flower, love a girl, exactly like us. But the enemy proved it is not like us. And still, we will not stop trying.
“I stand here today sad, crying, but proud; proud of my country that fought with me to bring you back, proud of every citizen who thought of you, Eldad, as his brother. I’m proud to belong to those who love and not to those who hate. And to the entire nation who paid a high price with clenched teeth, they know that camaraderie has no price.
“Every Hebrew mother should know that the fate of her sons , even if they are taken hostage, lies in the hands of commanders who will not rest and never give up until they return.
“I am proud of you my little brother, a man of many talents, a lover of literature and soccer. A true patriot both on the front lines and in everyday life, during reserve duty or in the volunteer work you carried out.”
Eyal Regev, Eldad’s other brother, quoted something that Eldad had written on Yom HaZikaron (Remembrance Day), before he was captured: “Maybe there is eventual comfort and hope, and remembrance and faith are not for nothing.”
“My Eldad,” said Eyal,” may your memory be blessed.”
Herb Keinon, writing in the Jerusalem Post, attempted to explain what has happened here in the last few days:
“Much of what makes Israel unique and different needs to be understood to explain the grisly prisoner exchange that took place on Wednesday. Israel freed a child-murderer and four prisoners of war, along with nearly 200 bodies of assorted terrorists and infiltrators, for coffins bearing the remains of two IDF reservists.
“No other country in the world would have made such a deal. But no other country in the world bears the scars that Israel does, nor the almost absolute knowledge that there will be other wars to fight in this generation, and that people we all know will be called upon to do the fighting…
“Israel’s ethos of never leaving a soldier behind also comes, to a great degree, from a sense of communal obligation following the Holocaust – a feeling that whenever Jews are in danger, everything, but everything, must be done to try to save them, if only because so little was done back then.
Perhaps this is so, and undoubtedly there is some truth in this. There is no question but that we value life and the preciousness of each individual as no other people.
But if there is a communal obligation for each life, there is also the obligation to not put lives of our soldiers at unnecessary risk, and I suggest that this what this trade has done: for we’ve delivered a message that will encourage further kidnappings.
This is what an anguished Naomi Ragen wrote yesterday regarding this very issue:
“What can we do? [we hear] We are civilized and they are not. We care about our soldiers and their families.
“No, I’m afraid you do not. If you cared, then you would have a death penalty for people like Kuntar, so that they too can be released in caskets…
“…Civilized is not a moral value , because we all know what Western civilization is capable of. Concentration camps. Civilian round-ups, the gassing of children…On the other hand, the moral thing to do to a tried and convicted murderer like Kuntar is to spill his blood, because he has spilled the blood of others. That may not fit in with current civilized niceties, but let no one say it is immoral.
“When it comes to immoral, to release Kuntar to a hero’s welcome and the opportunity to murder others is on the top of the scale…
“If we cared about our soldiers, we would not be showing our enemies that kidnapping and terrorism pay. We would not be setting the stage for the next murderous terrorist raid and hostage standoff. We would be passing laws with a mandatory death penalty for convicted terrorists with blood on their hands…Then, we would be cutting off all water and electricity to Gaza until Gilad Shalit is released. If that didn’t work, we’d begin executions within one week, increasing the number of convicted terrorists facing firing squads with each passing day until Gilad is returned to us safe and sound. And if that didn’t work, we would begin daily bombings of Gaza, with the same number and frequency of attacks that our own city Sderot has suffered over the past three years from the Gazans. Not civilized? Perhaps. But moral. Extremely moral.
Just perhaps, with this posting I have shared a bit of the anguish of our nation right now.
There will be other days for discussing other issues.