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(photo credit: Channel 10)
When US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi traveled to the Middle East in April, she brought with her a piece of jewelry that was not part of the standard politician's attire. It was a replica set of dog tags of the three IDF soldiers kidnapped last year; she presented them to Syrian leader Bashar Assad in Damascus, to pressure him to work for their return.
Now almost every member of Congress has such a set of dog tags, as the United Jewish Communities distributed them ahead of Thursday's one-year anniversary of the abductions of reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev near the Lebanese border.
They were handed out on June 25, the anniversary of the capture of the third soldier, tank gunner Gilad Schalit, near the Gaza Strip.
The dog tags met with a warm reception from nearly all members of Congress, according to the UJC, though a few legislators did not accept them, explaining that their policy was not to accept gifts.
The dog tags have become the symbol of a campaign organized by the UJC and other Jewish organizations for the soldiers release. The dog tags were first given out by the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles, and subsequently adopted by the UJC as a national campaign. More than 10,000 have been distributed across the world.
William Daroff, UJC vice president of public policy, said he hoped that after receiving the dog tags, lawmakers would keep the soldiers in mind, and that their timely release would follow.
"You never know what will help bring about a change in history, and in this case, a change in the struggle of these young soldiers," said Daroff. He said many legislators would visit the Middle East this summer, making the issue especially relevant.
In March, Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik and Karnit Goldwasser, wife of captured soldier Ehud Goldwasser, met with Pelosi in Washington. During their visit, Goldwasser presented Pelosi with a set of the dog tags.
While speaking at the AIPAC annual policy conference in Washington later that month, Pelosi repeatedly held up the dog tags and spoke about their significance.
"I keep them on display in the Speaker's Office as a reminder of my promise to do everything in my power to get information on the soldiers and work for their release," Pelosi said in her AIPAC address.