Israelis wearing keffiyehs protest prisoner release 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
“We’re in a war, a war over public opinion and we have to do whatever is
Oren Tamam, 50, hustles off the platform at the Hashalom train
station at Azrieli Mall in Tel Aviv, and pauses for a few minutes at the
shopping center’s food court.
He’s on his way to an interview at the
Channel 1 studio nearby, his third of the day after Channel 2 and Channel 10.
Tamam is a bereaved brother in the middle of a media blitz, trying to stop a
prisoner release that only a couple hours later was approved by the
“The people don’t support this deal. We supported the [Gilad]
Schalit deal because there was a payoff, a captive soldier that you knew would
return,” he said. “But this, to give in to this demand from the very beginning?
What’s going to be at the end?” Tamam catches his breath amid a packed crowd of
young soldiers, teenagers on summer break and midday shoppers at the mall. He’s
been up since 4:30 a.m., when he rose before dawn to drive to Jerusalem from
Netanya to take part in a protest against the prisoner release outside the Prime
He has no faith in the understanding that Netanyahu
will not release Israeli Arabs such as his brother’s killers as part of the
deal, and that “there’s no way to believe that they won’t be part of it too. He
also said in the past he’ll agree to talks with no preconditions, and look what
he wants to do now before having talks.”
Tamam was a young man himself on
the night of August 6, 1984, when his younger brother Moshe, then only 19,
hitched a ride back from his base at the Beit Lid junction with four Israeli
Arabs from Baka al- Gharbiya.
Unknown to Moshe, the four men were part of
a terror cell plotting to kidnap a soldier and spirit him off to Syria to trade
for Palestinians jailed in Israel.
Tamam said when his brother didn’t
come home they thought he was with friends. It was years before cell phones or
Facebook, so they waited patiently and didn’t try to reach him or become
alarmed. They even went ahead with a birthday party for him two days later, and
only after all the guests left around 11 p.m., did they get a knock on the door
from IDF officers telling them that Moshe had been murdered.
stopped at that very moment, everything we’ve ever done since is just by
inertia,” Tamam says.
“We smile but it’s forced, all of our lives are
suspended completely since that very moment.”
From that day Tamam and his
other brother, Albert, both soldiers at the time, vowed to honor their brother’s
memory, and both later named their first-born sons Moshe.
re-enlisted, serving 27 years as a career soldier, eventually retiring as a
lieutenant-colonel in the Logistics Corps. Along the way, he, his siblings and
their parents carried on a personal battle to honor their fallen son, and try to
prevent future prisoner releases, which, he says, they believe will only push
the cause of peace further away.
One bereaved father who feels
differently is Rami Elhanan, an outspoken peace activist whose daughter, Smadar
Elhanan, was murdered in a bus bombing on Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem on
September 4, 1997.
Smadar is one of three 14- year-old girls killed in
the attack that took the lives of five Israelis. While her father says that for
the past 16 years he hasn’t been able to sleep, he adds, “I don’t think that the
blood of children that has already been spilled is redder than that of the
children whose blood will be shed in the future if we don’t achieve
“I could wake up in the morning and kill the entire world, but it
wouldn’t bring Smadar back,” he says.
Smadar was the granddaughter of
Israeli general and left-wing politician Mati Peled, and the daughter of
far-left activist Nurit Peled- Elhanan. Her father said Sunday that while he
takes no issue with the bereaved families who oppose the prisoner release, it is
important to remember that “if you look at history, every peace deal between
enemies always started with a prisoner release. We have to return prisoners if
it is part of a process that will result in peace.”