Why is it that terror victims are seemingly the only ones against the prisoner exchange? While other Israelis are rejoicing, we are in despair.
Arnold and Frimet Roth circulated a petition against the release of Ahlam Tamimi, an accomplice in their daughter Malki’s murder at the Sbarro pizza shop.
Tamimi says she is happy that many children were killed in the attack. Meir Schijveschuurder, whose family was massacred in the same attack, filed a petition with the high court and says he is going to leave Israel because of his feelings of betrayal. The parents of Yasmin Karisi feel that the state is dancing in their blood because Khalil Muhammad Abu Ulbah, who murdered their daughter and seven others by running them down with a bus at the Azor junction in 2001, is also on the list to be released. Twenty-six others were wounded in that attack.
Why are so many of us against the exchange that allows murderers and their accomplices to go free? Because we know the suffering that these murderers leave in their wake.
Yes, I want Gilad Schalit released. But not at any price. Not at the price we have experienced.
My son Koby Mandell and his friend Yosef Ish Ran were murdered by
terrorists 10 years ago when they were 13 and 14 years old. They had
been hiking in the wadi near our home when they were set upon by a
Palestinian mob and stoned to death. It was a brutal, vicious murder.
We now run the Koby Mandell Foundation for terror victims’ families. We
direct Camp Koby, a 10-day therapeutic sleep away camp for 400 children
who have lost loved ones, mostly to terror. We also run mothers’ healing
retreats and support groups.
MOST PEOPLE don’t understand the continuing devastation of grief:
fathers who die of heart attacks, mothers who get sick with cancer,
children who leave school, families whose only child was murdered. We
see depression, suicide, symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. You
wouldn’t believe how many victims’ families are still on sleeping pills
and anti-anxiety medication. We see the pain that doesn’t diminish with
time. We literally see people die of grief.
Bereaved families face acute psychological isolation.
Nobody understands us, they often complain.
They mean that nobody understands the duration or the severity of their
pain and longing. In the aftermath of a prisoner exchange, this
isolation will only be exacerbated.
So will the feeling that our children’s deaths don’t matter.
When people tell me that my son Koby died for nothing, I always used to say: No, it is our job to make his death mean something.
But now I am not sure. It seems that the government is conspiring to ensure that our loved ones’ deaths were for nothing.
Cheapening our loved ones’ deaths only enhances the pain. If Israel is
willing to free our loved ones’ murderers, then the rest of the world
can look on and assume that the terrorists are really freedom fighters
or militants. If Palestinians were murdering Jews in cold blood without
justification, surely the Israeli government wouldn’t release them.
No sane government would.
When we were sitting shiva for Koby, a general in the army told us: “We
will bring the killers to justice.” I believed him. I took his words to
heart. Today I am thankful my son’s killers have not been found. So are
my children. Of course, I don’t want the terrorists to kill again. But
if they were to be released in this prisoner exchange, I don’t think I
could bear it.
We don’t want other families to be put in our situation.
We don’t want terrorists to be free when our loved ones are six feet
underground. Ten years after my son was beaten to death, the pain often
feels like a prison. In many ways, I am not free.
We don’t want other terrorists to be emboldened because they know that
even if they murder, they may not have to stay in prison. President
Shimon Peres says he will pardon but he will not forgive. Terrorist
victims’ families will not pardon or forgive the government for this
We have been betrayed. To pardon terrorists mocks our love and our pain.
Furthermore, terrorism aims to strike fear in an entire society, to
bring a whole populace to its knees. During the intifada, the terrorists
did not succeed in defeating Israeli society. But to release prisoners
now signals to Hamas that their strategy of terror was correct,
They will celebrate wholeheartedly because they have won.
And as a result of prisoner exchanges, the Israeli justice system can
only be seen as a joke, a mockery, even a travesty of justice.
It provides no deterrent and no retribution. It’s as if our government
says to the killers: Come hurt us again. We’ll be happy to release you
one day. We’ll let you go when you demand it.
I want Gilad Schalit home.
We need to protect our own soldiers. But not with a wholesale prisoner
exchange. I wish that I could rejoice with the Schalit family. But I
The price is too high.
The writer is the mother of Koby Mandell, who was stoned to death near his home in Tekoa in 2001.