Could it be real this time?

How many times can you fall for the same trick? The same lie?

How many times can someone yank your cord, pull your chain? The answer is directly related to how much you care and the depth of your need.

Israel as a nation keeps falling for the same propaganda, the same trick, the same lies. Each time, our hearts fly, our hope soars, our eyes fill…and then each time, our enemies rejoice as we realize we’ve been fooled again. They laugh at our gullibility and how easy it was for them. Just a rumor is enough to set us to hoping, to praying.

They play us so perfectly, each time, every time, all the time. They did it last year, last month, last week and likely this week too.

Gilad will be free next Friday – this is the latest in a long series of rumors. Gilad has been transferred to Egypt awaiting release – that was the last time…or perhaps the time before that. This time it is Hamas.

Once it was Hezbollah – Ehud and Eldad are alive. Hurry, make the deal. They would hint of injuries and talk of exchanges while denying us even a glimpse. Despite all evidence, they are alive…don’t you want them, they taunted us?

Germany is negotiating for Ron – then it was Hezbollah too, and the Iranians, maybe Syria. Maybe he is alive, maybe he is dead. Don’t you want him? A child grows up without her father; a woman made a widow while her husband yet lives.

Back to Lebanon and Hezbollah – mothers who want to believe, need to believe. Last time it was three soldiers. Last time it was two soldiers. This time, it is one soldier. Last time they were dead…returned to us in coffins. This time, he is alive. We believe, we pray, we believe, we hope. Please, let him be alive; let him come home this time.

Over and over, their faces haunt us and the need to bring them home burns inside of us – almost to the point of desperation…almost to the point, they hope, that we will make a deal beyond all reason. In their equation, Gilad is worth 1,000 prisoners – a mere video showing him reading from a piece of paper is worth 20.

We needed to believe Ehud and Eldad are alive…against all odds, against all evidence. And so we believed and seeing their coffins being unloaded as we turned over a child-killer and other terrorists, alive and well to return to their celebrations, was a massive kick in our collective stomachs and souls. We felt sick and nauseous. They celebrated with their guns shooting in the air; we cried bitter tears. Again, all lies. Again, they give us mutilated bodies. Again, we mourn.

But Gilad is alive, we tell ourselves. We have seen him. They have dared to show us videos. He looks thin, but healthy. He’s beautiful. He has to come home. We have to bring him home.

Hamas says negotiations are going well. Hamas says we have made progress…

We lost a lot of faith, as a nation, when Ehud and Eldad were returned to us, only to be buried. Hamas understood this and played us yet again.

They knew they could not get away with claims and so they dangled videos – close enough to see, to hear, but not to touch. For days, we all watched Gilad over and over again. We looked at his eyes, how he moved his hands. The shuffle near the camera, the little smile he gave. This is a game they are playing, Gilad told us. You know it; I know it, but bring me home.

Our hearts broke, as Hamas knew they would. Today, the phone beeps and the Internet sites carry the news – Gilad will be free next Friday on the eve of a Muslim holiday.

Could it be real this time?

Are we falling, yet again, for Hamas’ emotional torture and blackmail?

Will we ever stop being so gullible?

No, the answer is no. We will always weep, always worry, always pray to bring our sons home. We do not glory in martyrdom and death. We want our sons with us, alive, well, safe, home. Yes, we will cry a river of tears between now and next Friday, and a river more if these rumors prove, yet again to be false.

That once bothered me, that Hamas could play us for the weakness of caring for a single life of a single soldier to such a crippling extent. But I see what they are, what they have become. I see a society that encourages its children to hate and to die. That is what comes from the violence they preach, from the value they place on their own lives. No, I would rather my son believe he is the center of my world, than believe he is expendable. I would rather he worship a God who loves him and his people and commands that he seek life, than that he worship a god who calls for Jihad and Shahid and death.

No, it no longer bothers me that Hamas plays us so perfectly. I would rather live in a society that can be fooled, time after time after time, because ultimately what it shows is that we are a country built on hope, on love, on life.

I hope, I pray, that Gilad Shalit will come home next Friday to a family that has waited more than three long, horrible years for his return, to a country that has stood by his family, and by him.

It will be another hard week for Gilad’s family while they wait and see if this is yet another example of Hamas’ inhumane and barbaric torture. It will be a week in which we all pray that this nightmare has finally ended and that Gilad will come home alive and well.

I have little doubt that Israel will be called upon to release hundreds of prisoners for Gilad, including murderers and terrorists. I have little doubt those we release soon, will return to their ways and we will capture them yet again in the future. I have little doubt Hamas will try to kidnap another Gilad and so it will all return again and again.

I don’t have a solution; I don’t believe we can change who we are and what we are and so we will cry this week, each week, every week. But we will also celebrate. Hopefully we will celebrate Gilad’s coming home…but even if we don’t, we will celebrate living in a country that cares enough about its sons to encourage them to live and not to die.

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