(photo credit: Lionel Slier)
A solidarity delegation from South Africa met with the parents of kidnapped IDF reservist Ehud Goldwasser in their hometown of Nahariya last week.
The 32 South Africans - Jews and Christians - expressed support and sympathy for the family, which has lived in South Africa on and off since 1987. Miki and Shlomo Goldwasser were working as emissaries in Durban, when they found out their son had been kidnapped by Hizbullah on July 12.
The tour's organizer, Reeva Forman, said, "We share your pain and your agony and appreciate the uncertainty which makes this suffering so much worse. You are in our thoughts and in our prayers, which are for a speedy and happy resolution."
The "Israel Now Tour," now in its fifth year, brings South Africans to Israel to update them on the situation here. Forman said they decided to visit the Goldwassers particularly because of their South African connections.
Ehud celebrated his bar mitzva in Durban and a younger brother passed his matriculation exams at the local Jewish high school.
"Miki and Shlomo come across as a modest, quiet, decent couple, but their pain and anxiety is obvious," said Troy Meyers, African National Congress adviser to the Durban City Council.
"I will lobby with the council to assist when I return to South Africa," he said.
Miki shared with the group her experiences from the moment she heard on the news that two IDF soldiers had been killed and two others captured by Hizbullah.
"I am fighting for my son," she said. "You know mothers will do anything for their sons, but we don't really know what to do. I was told, 'You don't have a chip in your brain capable of dealing with Hizbullah, capable of understanding them.' We need to deal with them, but I haven't been to a school that taught me what to do. I mean, my son was born here, grew up here, had Arab friends.
"We have been all over the world, met congressmen, prime ministers, spoken to communities and asked them to help. People accuse us of worrying about three men when Israel is holding thousands. But the difference is that the Red Cross has access to them [Palestinian security prisoners]. Their families have information about them."
Miki said that at this stage, all they wanted was some sign Ehud was alive.
"We don't know whether what we are doing is good or bad. We are not politicians, we are just two parents. All that we have done, all that the government has done, has not had much of a result," she said.
Shlomo Goldwasser, youthful-looking, quiet-spoken and, like his wife, fluent in English, said, "Many people ask, 'What's the big deal?' The USA says it doesn't deal with kidnappers. [Former South African president] Nelson Mandela and my son Ehud have the same birthday. Through a friend in Durban who has access to Mandela, we asked for Mandela to speak out. This friend said Mandela is no longer involved in politics. I cling to the hope that Hizbullah will not ignore the voices. God can hear everyone, even the deaf. There must be a channel for negotiating."
Members of the solidarity mission said they would lobby the South African government.
They said they intended to apply pressure by writing to the press, phoning into radio talk shows and speaking out at every available opportunity.