Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Let Koran's message of mercy prevail
At 3:45 in the afternoon of July 16, I was driving on Whalley Avenue when I heard on the radio that the coffins of Sgt. Maj. Ehud Goldwasser and 1st Sgt. Maj. Eldad Regev arrived at Rosh Hanikra on Israel's northern border. After two years, their parents, Goldwasser's young bride and the nation of Israel knew for certain that these soldiers, taken captive after an ambush by Hezbollah in which eight other soldiers lost their lives, were dead.
The next day, they were laid to rest in their homeland. All Israel mourned.
In Lebanon, the nation rejoiced.
As I passed the Holocaust Memorial on one side and the old cemetery of B'nai Jacob on the other, I reflected on the cruel psychological torment Hezbollah sadistically inflicted on the families of the two soldiers. Until the last moment, they refused to reveal whether the men were alive or dead. I imagined what the pain of this was for a family as I drove past the graves of my grandparents and my uncle, Lt. Sidney A. Wolfe, for whom I was named.
When my uncle, a handsome 25-year-old Air Force pilot known only to me by his pictures and my mother's fond memories, was shot down over Germany in 1943, he was reported missing in action, presumed dead. My grandparents were devastated - my grandfather was literally dying of what the Romantics called a broken heart; my grandmother sobbed into her pillow late into the night.
According to family lore, my birth and the comfort of naming me for him returned my grandparents to life, but they still maintained hope against hope that perhaps their son had survived. Only when I was 6 years old did they have final closure, when his body was found in a shallow grave and returned to the States and buried with military honors.
I could empathize with the pain of long sleepless nights, torn between despair and hope; the tireless crusade of Karnit, Goldwasser's wife, for some trace of information about the abducted soldiers.
In order to gain the release of these young men, Israel released one of the most evil and abominable killers, Samir Kuntar, and four other militants along with the bodies of 199 terrorists who were killed fighting Israel over the past three decades. The 2007 Lebanon War began with the raid in which Goldwasser and Regev were captured. Hezbollah has said it carried out the ambush in order to gain Kuntar's release.
Kuntar is a hero in the eyes of Hezbollah, and while the Israelis wept, Kuntar was hailed by tens of thousands of Hezbollah supporters and revered as an almost mythical figure by Lebanese leaders. To the roaring crowds, Kuntar exclaimed, "I promise my people and dear ones in Palestine that I and my comrades in the valiant Islamic resistance will return."
The celebratory welcome prompted Ofer Regev, Eldad's brother, to say: "Our enemy has been exposed as the complete opposite of us, a cruel mirror image of everything that is human and acceptable."
Who is Kuntar? Einat Haran was 4 years old on April 21, 1979, when the 16-year-old Kuntar headed a PLO terrorist unit and arrived in a dinghy from Lebanon on the shores of Nahariya. Entering the home of the Haran family, he took hostage Danny, the father of the family, and Einat while Smadar, Danny's wife, and their 2-year-old daughter Yael and a neighbor hid in a crawl space. Kuntar laid Einat's head on a small rock and killed her by smashing her skull with the butt of a rifle. In front of her lay the bleeding body of her father, shot by Kuntar, who made certain the murder would be the last thing Einat would see. Smadar tried to stifle the cries of her terrified baby and accidentally smothered the toddler she held close to her chest.
What possible outcome for the prisoner exchange of terrorists for coffins? All who value human life and human dignity can insist that Hamas return Cpl. Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped from Israel more than two years ago and taken into Gaza, where he is held hostage.
Let the Koran's message of kindness and mercy prevail. Let us unite in trying for a different outcome for Shalit so that he can return alive to his family and his home. Let the mirror that reflected the distorted image of Kuntar's legacy be wiped clean and the photos of Shalit's release portray only tears of joy.