Eternal Optimists Never Die

I am for the most part, among the community known as “eternal optimists.” Not always and not in all things, but generally, I try to look at life from the point of view that it is worth living, worth cherishing and worth enjoying. There are realities I know I should face, possibilities well worth considering, that I know in my heart, I just can’t handle.

When Hezbollah finally agreed to return Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev to Israel (in exchange for hundreds of prisoners), I, like all of Israel turned to the north. I waited for that first glimpse of our soldiers returning and literally gasped out loud when I saw the coffins. My eyes filled with tears and it was at that very moment that I realized that I hadn’t believed, in the depths of my heart, that they were really dead.

Of course, they were killed immediately during the attack on their unit. There never had been reason to hope. Slowly the information had been leaked to the Israeli public, but we didn’t want to believe, you see? It was too much. One is most definitely dead, the other critically injured, the army told the people months before the exchange. It made no sense that they didn’t know which one had died – wouldn’t there be enough physical evidence to know? It didn’t matter. It was all logistics and with broken hearts, we couldn’t focus on the details.

I’ve been writing the last few days (and weeks and months) about Gilad Shalit. Gilad is a few months older than my Elie. Both soldiers in Israel. Beyond that, I doubt the boys have much in common. Gilad is a writer and a musician; Elie loves to tinker and put things together. Gilad comes from a secular home; Elie comes from a religious one. Gilad is thin, sometimes even painfully thin in the pictures we’ve seen. Elie is by no means heavy, but he’s solid. That’s the word, solid.

So after my most recent post, someone commented as follows:

I hate to be negative about this, but after so long I don’t even have any hope that Gillad is still alive. It seems like there was not any real effort on the part of the Israeli government to assure his release. If Gillad comes back I would not at all be surprised if it’s in a pine box. Hizbollah has never been one that anyone could trust. I’m not sure why anyone would believe them now.

And I wanted to answer, to explain. I do have hope that Gilad is still alive, and even the desperate prayer that somehow Hamas will allow him to come home. I can’t disagree about the failures of the Olmert government. Beyond the corruption of the Kadima party itself, this is a personal failure of both Olmert and Barak, leaving the situation with Gilad so long.

My brain, too, will not be surprised if Gilad doesn’t return alive, but until, God forbid, I see the coffin, I won’t believe it deep in my heart. My heart will weep with sheer agony, for Gilad, for his parents, for his family, and for Israel. And, I can’t do that now. Yes, you are so correct – Hezbollah has never been one that anyone can trust, and neither has Hamas. Both these terrorist organizations, so popular among their people, have proven themselves to be inhumane as they regularly tortured the families of their captives by dangling hope and then crushing it.

But your final sentence was one that touched me most. You wrote, “I’m not sure why anyone would believe them now.” So, let me explain. In Israel, we live on miracles and hope on a daily basis. My brain says that you may be right (it can’t even say you are right because that would be too painful). My brain thinks of the welcome that Hezbollah gave to the murderer Samir Kuntar, celebrating the return of this child killer and my brain remembers the joy and celebration when most of the hostages returned safely to Israel in 1976 after the Entebbe raid, or the joyful welcome given to Natan Sharansky after he was finally released by the Soviet Union.

I think all of Israel would take to the streets to welcome Gilad home and in knowing of the joy is the knowledge that our enemies would do almost anything to prevent this. All this, as you say, is the brain. The heart of an Israeli remembers what David Ben Gurion once said, “In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles.”

This is as true today as it was when he said it. I believe in miracles. I am a realist. Gilad Shalit could well be alive and we have to pray that he is. Hamas isn’t nearly so dumb as to kill their most valuable bargaining chip and if they have, I can only hope that Israel will seal the crossings permanently and forever, cut the electricity, the water, whatever. Enough. We owe them nothing and if we can’t have Gilad…they shouldn’t have access to our medical facilities. Let them spend their money on hospitals and doctors, rather than missiles and rockets. Enough.

For now, my brain and heart have to believe that Gilad may still come home – alive and well and safe – especially if our government remains firm and insistent. If you will it, it is no dream. Israel was created by people who believed this, built by men and women who proved this. Gilad’s present is in Hamas‘ hands, but his future is in the hands or our leaders – if they will it, they can bring forth a miracle.

May God bless and watch over Gilad Shalit. May He give Gilad’s parents courage and strength and may He grant our leaders the knowledge and the wisdom and the strength to make it happen. We are waiting for you Gilad – come home soon.

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