Rage, ignominy and demoralization inflamed the eyes and shook the voices of several Israeli mothers
who sat with images of their slain children in front of the Prime Minister’s
Residence on a chilly Wednesday afternoon.
They and other relatives of
terror victims were protesting the Sunday release of 26 Palestinian
As various cars honked in support upon seeing the large
placards bearing the faces of the young murder victims – some of whose
assailants are scheduled to go free – Ortal Tamam, whose uncle was murdered in
1984, explained why she had organized the gathering.
“I’m a 25-year-old
medical student in Beersheba, and I see my future here and want to live in a
country that preserves its values, and I think we lost a sense of right and
wrong,” she said. “I feel like the prime minister, who is supposed to be a
representative of the people, is not listening to the people and is selling our
values for politics.”
Noting the improbability of such a prisoner release
ever taking place in America or any other democratic nation, Tamam said the
stakes of such a gamble were too high a risk, and imperiled Jewish
“Our values are what held us together for thousands of years
in the Diaspora, and if we’re not going to stick to our values now that we have
our own country, eventually we will lose it,” she said.
Sherri Mandell –
whose 13-year-old son Koby was violently murdered in Tekoa in 2001 along with
his friend Yosef Ish-Ran – said the upcoming release served as evidence that the
nation had lost its moral compass and subjugated itself to American
“We’re living in a country with a lack of ethics and justice,”
said Mandell with thinly veiled contempt. “We have succumbed to America’s
demands, and they would never do this. Let them release prisoners from
Guantanamo Bay if they want peace with Afghanistan!” She beseeched the public to
inundate Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with posts on his Facebook page to
denounce the ongoing releases and prevent future episodes.
“This is not a
one-time thing. It’s a whole cycle of capitulation to something that erodes the
values of this country,” she said, adding that she had created the organization
The Cry of the Mothers several weeks ago in protest.
“The main thing is
that this should not be just a fight for bereaved parents; it should be a fight
for all the people of this country,” she continued. “People are letting this go
on, and there’s no big wave of protest, even though everyone’s against
Lizi Hameiri, who hasn’t lost a relative to terrorism, said she
viewed the release in moral and existential terms.
“I’m 38 and don’t have
kids, and I’m asking myself, what’s the point of bringing kids into a country
that does not value human life?” she said. “Not only were [these mothers’] kids
murdered, but they have to suffer by seeing the murderers released and their
kids’ lives used as pawns in a political game.”
As a case in point, Varda
Akiva, whose son Shaltiel was murdered by three terrorists in 1985, said two of
the Palestinians convicted in the homicide had been released in the Gilad
Schalit exchange and in July’s first stage of releases. The third killer, she
said, was scheduled to be released Sunday.
Further exacerbating her
anger, Akiva said, was that the last killer was an Israeli Arab from a village
next to her community.
“If they release him, I demand he be deported out
of Israel, because there is a chance that I will see the murderer of my son in
the market,” she said, holding back tears. “If I see him, I will strangle him!
It’s beyond comprehension that I will see the murderer of my son free before my
Meanwhile, Tali Ben-Yishai – whose daughter, Ruth Vogel, was
brutally murdered in her home along with her husband and three children in
2011’s “Itamar massacre” – said that although her family’s killers were not
being released Sunday, she could not remain silent.
“I’m speaking as a
bereaved mother, but above all else, as a mother,” she said. “I think it is an
injustice, totally immoral, and an affront to the values of the nation. There
should be a commitment to the ones who lost their lives, as well as to those who
Asked what she would say to the prime minister if given the
opportunity, Ben-Yishai responded not with anger, but with
“Bibi, we believe in you,” she said. “It doesn’t suit you as
one who has lost a loved one to terror and fought against it [that you] would do
such an act.”
Netanyahu’s brother Yonatan was killed in the raid on
Entebbe in 1976.
Ben-Yishai continued, “By doing this, we are giving up
the most profound thing that symbolizes the nation of Israel: justice, morality,
solidarity and responsibility.”
In an open letter from Netanyahu to
Israeli citizens in July, shortly before the initial phase of the four-stage
release, the prime minister addressed his controversial decision, noting that he
understood the pain it would inflict on the families of those who had been
“This is an incredibly difficult decision,” he wrote. “It hurts
the bereaved families, it hurts all of the Israeli people and it hurts me very
And while Netanyahu conceded that the gesture clashed with “the
principle of justice,” he added that “sometimes prime ministers are forced to
make decisions that go against public opinion – when the issue is important for
Meanwhile, at a Wednesday Christmas event in Bethlehem,
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the release of the 26
prisoners on Sunday would engender a “happier holiday.” He also vowed to unify
the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Earlier in the morning, Deputy Defense
Minister Danny Danon held a meeting in the Knesset with the bereaved families
and like-minded MKs from different parties to denounce the pending
“I call on the prime minister to reconsider the release of
terrorists following the recent terrorist attacks,” he said, referring to the
spate of attacks over the past week.
“I called this meeting today first
of all to show that representatives from different parties care about these
precious families and remember their loved ones, remember the sacrifice they
made for this country,” he said.
At the meeting, MK Ayelet Shaked (Bayit
Yehudi), who described the Schalit exchange as “evil,” said Israel was “falling
apart” by abdicating the “morality that characterizes the Jewish state.” She
called for legislation against future transactions of this kind.
participant in the meeting – whose mother was killed after she made aliya from
the United States at age 50 to fulfill the “Zionist dream” – questioned the
“We are taking a step to build trust with our
enemies, but what step is the government taking to build trust with its
citizens?” she asked. “You’re not protecting us, and we cannot explain this
reality to our children.”