When Merav Ron Perlstein sent her son Roey off to the army 17 years ago, she was certain the government would rescue him if he were kidnapped while in uniform.

Now, in light of the state’s failure to return captive soldier Gilad Schalit, she said she has sadly come to believe that the state would prefer its soldiers to die in battle.

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“Israel likes soldiers who come back dead,” said Perlstein.

She was one of a small group of women, who in a rally organized by Mothers for Gilad, stood outside the Israeli Presidential Conference in the Jerusalem International Convention Center on Thursday, shouting, “Rescue Gilad,” just as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was speaking.

Women who had manned the Jerusalem protest tent located outside the prime minister’s office formed the group last November. Since then, it has organized seven gatherings and demonstrations.

Perlstein, a Jerusalem resident and founding member, said she became active on Gilad’s behalf last year, after his parents marched to Jerusalem from their Mitzpe Hila home in the upper Galilee.

On Thursday evening, she stood at the rally with yellow ribbons around her neck. She held a sign that said, “Bibi, Forgive me for living.”

Since June 26, 2006, when Gilad was kidnapped as he patrolled Israel’s southern border, the country has changed, Perlstein said.

“Before, it was clear that everything would be done to free a captive soldier,” she said.

Gilad’s kidnapping showed that this was not true, and that the country had learned nothing from its delay in making a deal to free kidnaped airman Ron Arad, who disappeared in Lebanon in 1988.” The notion that the government is creating a situation where this could happen again has created a crisis in the very values that form the basis of the country, she said.

“The nation will survive only if it preserves its ideals,” she added.

Recently, she told her son Roey that if Gilad was not freed, he should consider not sending his three sons to the army when they turned 18.

Leora Rivobsky, of Even Yehuda, said that she would send her son to the army when the time came, “because I live in this country.”

But, she said, as a mother, she believed that it was important to do everything to ensure Gilad’s return. She was rallying on his behalf, she said, so her children would understand that the ethics of communal responsibility and not leaving a soldier on the battlefield were still important values.

As she spoke, a bus stopped behind the protesters and a group of soldiers disembarked.


One of the mothers, Naomi Betser, went over to some of the soldiers and told them, “We are doing this for you.”

The feeling of frustration about Gilad’s continued captivity is so high, Betser said, that in some extremist moments, they have considered an initiative to give suicide pills to soldiers just in case they are kidnapped.

“We believe that men in governmental positions are not doing enough,” said Betser, who traveled from the Galilee to Jerusalem just for the rally.

“We want to shout and scream at the terrible thing that is happening to one of our sons. The price for not freeing Gilad is much larger than the price of freeing thousands of terrorists [in exchange],” she said.

“We are standing here at this important gathering to tell Peres and Bibi that they need to take the courageous step of freeing Gilad. There is an expression which says that he who dares is the one who wins.”

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