The Big Debate

Far removed from Elie and his daily life, is a discussion that is breaking Israel’s heart and challenging both soldiers and parents of soldiers. What is the worth of a son? The answer, of course, is everything. What would you not do for your son? The answer, of course, is nothing. And yet three families in Israel are challenged, as is the nation.

Gilad Schalit is only 21 years old, the same age as Elie. For the last two years, he’s been held captive in Gaza, with no communication from his parents (and they only received a few letters and a video). Enough to torture, barely enough to reassure them that he is alive and well.

Ehud Goldwasser was a newlywed when he showed up for reserve duty almost two years ago. His wife celebrated their first wedding anniversary alone, not knowing if Ehud was even alive.

Eldad Regev, whose face and eyes haunt us, was captured by Hizbollah, along with Ehud. Their fate is not known, but evidence and statistics give a strong indication that they did not survive.

The big debate in Israel revolves around what we can and should do to get them back. For Gilad, Hamas is demanding no less than 1,000 prisoners, including those that we classify as having “blood on their hands.” These are terrorists and murderers – and the Palestinians want them back. There is little doubt that if we surrender these thousand, as we have hundreds before them, many of them will return to the lives they led – attack, terrorize, murder. We might be able to save Gilad now, but more Israelis will die in the future.

This is the price we are being asked to pay, and already, a majority of Israelis are willing. We can’t afford to let these terrorists go…and yet there isn’t a single parent who could imagine saying no. We will deal with attacks in the future, we tell ourselves; bring Gilad home now.

For Ehud and Eldad, the price is also in the hundreds of prisoners, at least. But the price is even higher. Hassan Nasrallah of Hizbollah has played this game before, and played it well. The last time, we exchanged hundreds of prisoners for three dead bodies and a drug dealer. This time, they are demanding Samir Kuntar.

Of all the attacks in all the years we have been a state, there have been those that stand out in our minds and continue to haunt us, even decades later. The Munich Massacre is remembered because it happened where it shouldn’t have – at the International Olympics, games of peace. It was a time when our team should have been safe.

Ma’alot – when dozens of teenagers were taken hostage and ultimately 16 were murdered. On the backs of children, Golda Meir explained in a broken voice, we cannot fight.

The Sbarro Pizzaria was another tragic attack. The terrorists entered on a beautiful summer day in August when families were relaxing and murdered, in cold blood. These were innocent people, in the center of Jerusalem, enjoying their lunch and their families.

The murders of Koby Mandell and Yosef Ishran stand out for their utter brutality. Palestinians took these two young teenagers (each just 13 years old), and beat them to death in a cave, just a few hundred meters from their homes. Their blood was smeared on the cave walls, their bodies left there.

And the murders of Danny Haran and his young daughter Einat, only 4 years old. Samir Kuntar broke into their homes after having infiltrated from Lebanon and murdering a policeman. He dragged Danny and Einat down to the beach, where he shot Danny Haran at close-range and threw his body into the sea. He then bashed Einat’s head on the rocks and hit her with his rifle, killing her instantly.

When caught and brought to justice, Samir Kuntar was sentenced to four life terms for his brutal crimes. This is the price that Hassan Nasrallah is demanding and the choice facing Israel.

If Eldad and Ehud were alive, most Israelis would probably not hesitate. Kuntar has served 28 years in jail. Certainly, he deserves more but if you believe, as I do, that there is justice in the end, no amount of punishment we give him in this world will be enough and his true and lasting punishment will come from God.

But if Eldad and Ehud are not alive, as many Israelis are coming to believe, should Israel still exchange Kuntar for their bodies? This is the big debate taking place now. I spoke to Elie about this. He believes the price is too high and that other soldiers will pay in the future as we continue to show that we will pay any price for our sons’ return.

But Elie isn’t a parent. Elie cannot imagine the agony of not knowing, the worry, the pain. When we are young, we have little understanding of how precious a child is and how there is nothing we would not do.

When I’m angry, I think of telling Nasrallah that we have no problem returning Samir Kuntar in exchange for Ehud and Eldad – with one catch. We will return Kuntar in the same condition that you return our soldiers – alive and well, or dead.

When I have a moment to think, I realize that there are areas of our mind that we cannot afford to explore if we want to stay sane and be able to function. We can handle this moment and we can handle the plans we know about, such as where Elie will go in a few weeks and in a few months after that. But we can’t handle the unknown. The thought of being told the Elie is hurt…or God forbid worse…the idea of a kidnapping. It’s too much to think about, too great a fear. We prefer never knowing.

For two years now, Eldad and Ehud and Gilad have been kept from Israel and from their families. For two years now, the unknown has haunted them and tortured them. Whatever Israel decides to do, whatever the fate of their sons, what must come out of all this is the belief that Israel did everything it could do to bring them home. The big debate in Israel is nothing compared to this.

May the One Who blessed our ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron,
David and Solomon, bless the kidnapped and captive soldiers, including among them Gilad ben (the son of) Aviva Shalit; Ohed ben Malka Goldwasser; Eldad ben Tova Regev; Guy ben Rina Hever, Ron ben Batya Arad; Yekutiel Yehuda Nachman ben
Sarah Katz; Tzvi ben Penina Feldman; and Zecharia Shlomo ben Miriam Baumel.

May the Holy One, Blessed be He, watch them and save them from all trouble and
oppression and from all evil and injury. May He be filled with mercy for them, to cause them to recover and to heal them, to strengthen them and to invigorate them, and to bring them speedily to freedom, to return to the embrace of their families. May they merit long lives and years of much strength and peace.

In the merit of our forefathers, may the descendants be saved and fulfill through them the verse, ‘Release my soul from imprisonment to praise Your Name’ (Psalms 142:8), swiftly and soon, and let us all say Amen.”

4 Comments on The Big Debate

  1. “When I’m angry, I think of telling Nasrallah that we have no problem returning Samir Kuntar in exchange for Ehud and Eldad – with one catch. We will return Kuntar in the same condition that you return our soldiers – alive and well, or dead.”

    Sounds good to me.

  2. I blogged about this today as well.

    Danny Haran’s widow wrote to Avi Dichter — her letter was read at the government cabinet meeting today. She said Kuntar is not her “personal” terrorist, and she is willing for him to be released.

    With all the slime we have released over the past 15 years for absolutely nothing in return (as part of Oslo), it would be immoral (in my opinion) NOT to release terrorists — if it means we get back our soldiers alive or dead (in the worse case)

    The past 15 years has shown a huge moral decay in Israel’s behaviour towards its soldiers and allies.

    We let IDF soldiers bleed to death at Kever Yosef, we turned our backs on the South Lebanese Army, threw “Palestinian collaborators” to the dogs, and of course, have totally stabbed in the back the citizens from Gush Katif.

    Oh I forgot, — who did we release? Sheik Obaid and Mustafa Dirani, real bargaining chips, were exchanged for a drug dealer Col. Elchonon Tennenbaum.

    Not getting Regev and Goldwasser back is simply immoral based on our track record of who we have already given up.

  3. Why should our sons give up years of their young lives, train so hard, and be willing to fight maybe even to the death to defend a country full of people and their elected politicians who would abandon them and say they are expendable? I say good for Israel and the Israeli people today and good for Gabi Ashkenazi for standing up for his men. The right thing was done. May they do the right thing for Gilad Shalit as well and soon.

    To those who say this will bring more kidnappings of soldiers, I say it is many years too late to prevent this no matter what is done in this case. Who can look into a mother’s eyes and say we stop this practice of exchanges with your son, that him we turn our backs on?

    To those concerned about releasing prisoners with blood on their hands, I say they should have been executed for their crimes long ago, as any decent, moral country would do to punish the guilty and protect their citizens. It does the Israeli people no good to hold themselves up to the rest of the world as holier than God.

    To Israeli newspaper commentators and Americans talkbackers who sit in front of their computers all day pretending to be real men and saying that these soldiers don’t matter and would best be abandoned for political considerations and the unknown future, I say who will be left to defend this country if soldiers and border guards and police decide the people don’t care about them and it’s not worth it? This is not a movie or a novel or a term paper. This is real life and these are real people who are suffering. Come to Israel, you and your children, and do your duty to protect this country. Then you will have a right to speak. What you say will be different then.

    Thanks, Paula, for letting me vent. We watched for a long time to see if other people really cared about the sacrifices of our sons and their comrades. Today we know they do.

    -proud mother of a Kfir lone soldier

  4. The Murder of Jewish Toddlers!

    On July 12, 2006 Lebanese Hezbollah militants crossed the border with Israel in an operation dubbed “Operation Truthful Promise,” which was aimed at nabbing Israeli soldiers in exchange for Lebanese prisoners. Hezbollah succeeded in the operation and successfully took hostage two Israeli soldiers, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. During the operation, eight Israeli soldiers were killed. This ignited the sequence of events which led to the Israel/Lebanon summer war. The story goes further back than July of 2006. It really began in April 1979! On Sabbath day, April 22, 1979, Danny and Smadar Haran met up with a monster named Samir Kuntar. Danny and Smadar were a loving Israeli couple. They had everything they could ever hope for… love, marriage and two precious daughters, Einat, 4 and Yael, 2. That day Smadar was home anticipating Danny’s return from work and preparing for the Sabbath. She had just picked up their two toddlers from day care. Danny, on the other hand, was looking forward to nothing more than getting home and spending time with his wife and his two young daughters.
    Traditionally, the Sabbath is the most special day of the week, the day the family gets to spend time together and celebrate their bond to Judaism. It was especially important for Danny who, as a young father, had to work extra hard in order to provide for his wife and young children. Little did Smadar know that this would be the last Sabbath she would celebrate with her family because of a man named Samir Kuntar. Around midnight the nightmare began! (Samir Kuntar; also spelled: Sameer Kuntar, Kantar, Qantar, Kintar, Quntar, Qintar, Cantar)
    What’s the deal with Samir Kuntar? Since April 22, 1979 Samir Kuntar has been incarcerated in an Israeli prison. Samir Kuntar, a Druze from the Lebanese mountain village of Aabey , who currently holds the dubious distinction of being the longest held Lebanese prisoner in Israeli jails. Kuntar is currently ONE of THREE Lebanese prisoners still serving time in Israeli jails. Kuntar was convicted and sentenced to a 542 years prison sentence by the state of Israel . Israel even almost tried to pass a bill to have him executed! What did he do? What was his crime? The crime Kuntar committed was one of the most sickest, heinous, barbaric crime ever committed on Israeli soil. The crime took place on April 22, 1979 when Kuntar led a group of 3 other terrorists, all members of Abu Abbas PLF (Palestinian Liberation Front), infiltrated the Israeli coastal city of Naharya and broke into the Haran family apartment and took Danny Haran and his 4 year old daughter Einat Haran hostage. When Kuntar and his gang broke into the apartment, the wife, Smadar Haran and her 2 year old daughter Yael, were also present in the apartment. Smadar managed to find a crawl space into which she, her younger daughter, 2 year old Yael, and a neighbor all hid. To prevent Yael from crying and giving away their hiding place, Smadar covered the child’s mouth with her hand.
    Kuntar and his group took Danny and little Einat down to the beach. At the beach Kuntar shot Danny in the back. Danny survived the gun shot but moments later was drowned personally by Kuntar. All this was witnessed by the young daughter. Kuntar forced her to watch her father’s murder so that [in Kuntar’s words] “his death would be the last sight she would ever see.” Kuntar then laid the little toddler down on a rock and smashed her head with the butt of his rifle. She didn’t die right away, so Kuntar beat her with his rifle repeatedly, over and over again (all this done, while she was screaming and crying), to ensure that she was dead. Meanwhile in the apartment, Smadar’s attempt to muffle her daughter’s whimpering proved fatal. Yael was accidentally suffocated and died within the hiding space. And on July 12, 2006, the ONLY reason why Ehud Goldawasser and Eldad Regev were kidnapped by Hezbollah, was to force Israel to release/surrender Samir Kuntar. Now the dilemma is, should Israel release Samir Kuntar in order to gain the release of Goldwasser and Regev? Unfortunately Kuntar might be freed in the next couple of days in exchange for these two soldiers, or their caskets, since there hasn’t been even one sign of life since their kidnapping on July 12th. For those who didn’t know, Samir Kuntar was the only reason that’s been holding back the release of Goldwasser and Regev, for almost a year and a half.
    [Image of Einat Haran]
    [Image of Yael Haran]
    According to Smadar Haran, her last memories of Danny and Einat, that day, were when they were being led away at gun point by Kuntar. She could hear from her closet space Danny telling Einat, “Don’t be scared, my baby, it will be alright” and Einat replied to him in her little voice, “Dad, where is Mommy? I want Mommy.” Smadar’s last memory of her 2-year-old daughter, Yael, was when her little daughter was taken to the apartment hiding space. Right before Yael had her mouth covered by her mother, she asked her mother “Where is my little pacifier.” There was no time to search for the pacifier. Minutes later Smadar covered Yael’s mouth to keep her from revealing the hiding space. Smadar soon felt her daughter’s tiny tongue licks and lip sucking on the palm of her hand. She didn’t know what to make of it at first but hours later was told by doctors and paramedics that the reason Yael was licking her palm while she covered her mouth was because she was gasping for air. A Sad Gruesome Reality After drowning Danny in the sea in front of little Einat, Kuntar, the brave Lebanese freedom fighter, then turned his attention towards the frightened little 4-year old. He took his rifle and then swung it across the little toddler’s head, knocking her to the ground. As little Einat was knocked to the ground, she was screaming and crying hysterically “mommy daddy help me,” while thrashing her little legs around in the sand. But unfortunately Einat was alone, and no one was there to save her. Kuntar then dragged the little toddler a couple of feet to the closest rock he could find, this was while she was begging him not to hurt her. Kuntar, then laid her head down on a rock, with the intention of crushing it with the butt of his rifle. Einat, instinctively covered her head with her little arms, Kuntar struggled with the little toddler until he finally managed to clear her arms out of the way so that he could aim for her head. Once her arms were out of the way, Kuntar proceeded on beating her on the head over and over with the butt of his rifle, and repeatedly stomping on her little body as hard as he could as well, until blood rushed out of her ears and mouth, and her little cries faded away as she was knocked into unconsciousness. Then, to ensure she was dead, Kuntar continued on beating her over the head, as hard as he could, several more times until her skull was crushed and she was dead. The nerve of Hezbollah to honor a child killer like Kuntar. The nerve of Hezbollah to kidnap two Israeli soldiers in order to force Israel to release a child murderer from jail! This is what Hezbollah is all about. The July 12, 2006 abduction was originally named “Operation Freedom Samir Kuntar,” by Hezbollah. But days before the kidnapping Hezbollah changed the name of the operation to “Operation Truthful Promise,” due to the fact that Nasrallah made a true promise to the family of Samir Kuntar to have him freed from jail. In September 2000, three Israeli soldiers were kidnapped by Hizbollah, along with an Israeli businessman, Elhanan Tennenbaum. Nasrallah immediately demanded Israel release all its Lebanese prisoners INCLUDING Samir Kuntar. In 2004 Israel was holding a TOTAL of 26 Lebanese prisoners. That same year, 23 out of those 26 prisoners were released, in order to secure the release of those 3 IDF (Israeli Defense Force) soldiers as well and Elhanan Tennenbaum. This prisoner exchange also had a second phase, which involved Hezbollah providing solid evidence on the fate of Ron Arad (the Israeli pilot who went missing in Lebanon in 1986) and in exchange, Israel would release the 24th Lebanese prisoner, Samir Kuntar! Hezbollah failed to deliver the information on Arad, and the deal was off. In 2006, when Goldwasser and Regev were kidnapped Israel was out of bargain chips, its only choice in order to gain information on the fate of these two soldiers is the release Samir Kuntar. Who even knows if Goldwasser and Regev are alive! Let’s not forget, the four years prior to the “infamous Israel-Hezbollah prisoner exchange of 2004,” Israel had no idea on the fate of their soldiers until the day of the exchange. Only on the day of the exchange Israel found out, they would receive 3 caskets instead of 3 soldiers.
    It is beyond sickening, a man who beat to death a little toddler is celebrated for his glorious deed. Kuntar has been dubbed by some parts of the Arab world as the “Dean of World Prisoners.” Who would imagine? Hezbollah crossing the border into Israel, killing four Israeli soldiers and kidnapping 2 more, going through all this trouble, JUST to free a child killer!
    There is another point worth mentioning. Hezbollah has never claimed that Kuntar was innocent or that he may have been framed. They only demand his release as if he were being held unlawfully and that Israel had no right to imprison him. Kuntar is probably the most hated person by the Israeli public. He is known as the “killer of Nahrya” instead of “terrorist of Nahrya.” And to think that this person is being released under the context of threat, extortion, and blackmail! If it wasn’t for kidnapping of soldiers, Kuntar would have continued to serve out his sentence.
    Israel has an extensive history of releasing prisoner with blood on their hands, it has been done in the past and most expect that, it would happen again. This time with Kuntar. It is important to keep in mind that prisoners who are in Israeli jails are serving time for something. Israel is not a “gangster” or “lawless” state that imprisons people based solely on a whim. Every prisoner was charged, stood trail, convicted and properly sentenced. They were not kidnapped simply because they were Arabs. Hence, there is no justification in comparing the kidnapped Israeli soldiers to Samir Kuntar. There is a fine line between a humanitarian release of prisoners or releasing prisoners for the sake of peace AND knuckling under to unadulterated extortion. There is also a huge difference between someone with hatred in his head and he who has blood on his hands! Nobody expects that someone like Kuntar who is released will become Lovers of Israel! But someone and others like Kuntar who have committed murder or collaborated in the planning of that murder should be considered an unacceptable risk. It goes beyond forgiving terrorism. It becomes an abetting in any future terrorism carried out by those released. Israel will viewed as a weak state that can be brought to its knees by extortion. If Israel was to release Kuntar it would be the biggest thing they ever surrendered! The Sinai Peninsula, Israel gave back under negotiations, the West Bank and Gaza Israel also gave back under negotiations of the Oslo Accords. In 1985 during the famous “Ahmed Jibril Exchange” Israel released 1200 prisoners for the release of 3 IDF soldiers, some of those prisoners who were released had blood on their hands including Kozo Okamoto who killed 22 Israelis. BUT even all those 1200 prisoners put together, cannot compare to the savage murderous act committed by Samir Kuntar. Israel also currently holds 10,000 Palestinian prisoners, some of which have been incarcerated for conspiring, carrying out, and masterminding murderous terrorist attacks (suicide bombings, shootings, etc…), which targeted Jewish civilians in Israel. BUT even all those 10,000 prisoners put together cannot compare to Kuntar.
    Kuntar could have shot little Einat or blown her up, but instead he took his loaded gun and just bludgeoned her on the head repeatedly for several minutes until she was dead! Lets not also forget, the fact, that several minutes prior to murdering Einat, Kuntar drowned her father in front of her, and forced her to watch.
    Anyone, who reads this article and does not shed a tear, is not a human being. What kind of country is this to release a child murderer from jail under the context of threat and extortion? If we release Kuntar, we know what message it sends to Hezbollah and other terror groups like Hamas, etc… But what obscene messages does it send to the families of those Israeli murdered, especially Smadar Haran whose daughter was beaten to death by a man who hates Jews. What Kuntar did was not only a terrorist act but should also be considered a criminal act. And what demoralizing message does it send to the Israeli troops and security services who risked their lives in order to capture and arrest the terrorists? There is no doubt that Goldwasser and Regev need to be unconditionally released from Lebanon, Syria, Iran or from wherever they are now being held. Olmert’s “good will gesture” has disaster written all over it. Appeasement didn’t work with Hitler and it will not work with Hezbollah. “Negotiations” will not work either for over what exactly is there to negotiate? How far will Israel go to assure its own disappearance? There will be nothing positive coming out of the release of Kuntar. There is no worst context of releasing prisoners than under the context of threat. But today October 15, 2007 there is chatter within Israel to drop the demand for Ron Arad for the exchange of Kuntar.
    The Official Website of Samir Kuntar Israel moots Kuntar prisoner swap
    (AL-JAZEERA 9/17/2006) Free the monster Samir Kuntar
    (Haaretz article 09/04/2006) Plot to free terrorist (Kuntar) may have led to fight
    (Washington Times 8/8/2006) Nasrallah says no deal without Samir
    (9/12/2006 BBC article “Nasrallah Demands Militant Free”) “Hizballah Wants Israel to Free Child-Killer”
    (Cybercast News Service, 7/18/2006) More than 25 years later, militant still atop Hezbollah’s list for swap
    (Seattle Times 8/16/2006) Why Hezbollah Attacked Israel
    (Mens News Daily 8/09/2006) Samir Kuntar to be released very soon
    The Jerusalem Post 1/6/2007 of an interview with Smadar Haran on CBC
    (RealPlayer required)

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