A nation of love, not of hatred:
Praises for the Israeli people by the families of the kidnapped soldiers

Published: 11 August 2008
Briefing Number 220

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Summary:This Briefing summarises the messages of compassion and inspiration expressed by the families of Israeli soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, whose bodies were returned to Israel in July 2008, two years after the soldiers were kidnapped by Hizbollah.

The soldiers' families do not call for revenge, or express hatred towards Israel's enemies. Instead they highlight the qualities of the Jewish people which they have encountered during the families' two year ordeal.

Far from Israel descending into a cycle of hatred and violence as a result of the deaths of the soldiers, the families' eulogies show how the Israeli people strive to hold out hope for a better future, and to maintain their humanitarian values.

Hizbollah's kidnap of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser

On 12 July 2006 , Israeli soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were kidnapped by Hizbollah when they launched a cross-border operation from Lebanon into Northern Israel and attacked an Israeli troop patrol. Several Israeli soldiers were killed outright in the attack.

The attack triggered the Second Lebanon War (on which, see Beyond Images Briefing 179).

Ehud Goldwasser's wife Karnit, and members of the Regev family, became internationally recognised for their efforts to raise awareness of the plight of the two kidnapped soldiers.

But for the next two years, in a flagrant breach of international law, Hizbollah refused to say whether the soldiers were alive or dead, thus causing unspeakable torment to the soldiers' families.

On 16 July 2008 , the bodies of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were returned by Hizbollah to Israel . The first that anyone in Israel knew whether they were dead or alive was when live pictures were televised of two black coffins being removed from Hizbollah vehicles near the Israel-Lebanon border. A sense of national tragedy engulfed Israel .

Samir Kuntar's crime, and his ‘hero's welcome' in Lebanon

The return of the soldiers's bodies was part of an ‘exchange' agreed between the Israeli Government and Hizbollah, which included the release by Israel of Lebanese Sanir Kuntar.

Kuntar had been convicted in 1979 for a murderous attack in Northern Israel . Kuntar burst into a family home, killed Israeli Danny Haran in front of his four year old daughter Einat, then smashed Einat's skull with his rifle butt, killing her. Danny Haran's wife Smadar hid in a cupboard with her three year old daughter, and in her desperate efforts to stop her daughter from crying, accidentally smothered her to death with a pillow. An Israeli policeman, Eliyahu Shahar, was also killed by Kuntar. Kuntar's attack horrified Israel , and much of the world.

Upon his release in July 2008, Kuntar was greeted as a national hero in Beirut , with the Lebanese political elite coming out to greet him, and a large rally called to hailed his ‘heroism', and to inflame hatred towards Israel . Within days of his release, Kuntar pledged to kill more Israelis if given the chance.

Below are short extracts from the eulogies for Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, given by their families at their funerals, which took place on 17 July 2008 (as reported that day in the Jerusalem Post):-

Ofer Regev, brother of Eldad Regev

“We live 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….”

Miki Goldwasser, mother of Ehud Goldwasser

“We have found this Israeli 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 will not cry here. I will save the crying for later. I turn to the Jewish nation and ask you to hold your head high in national pride….”

Other Beyond Images resources: See website homepage / All Beyond Images Briefings/' Lebanon and Hizbollah'; ' Israel 's humanitarian values', and ‘Israeli society in the midst of conflict'.