Lea Goldin changed many people’s way of thinking about the meaning of losing one’s son in battle without ever seeing his body.She became another symbol in Israel’s never-ending relationship with war. This time, however, it was a symbol that we are not very familiar with – a mother who demands the return of her son, even when she knows that he is no longer among the living.Her son, Hadar, fell in battle with Hamas two hours after the beginning of the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. His body, together with that of Oron Shaul, a fellow soldier who was killed in the same attack, were captured by Hamas and are still being held by the terrorist organization.According to the family, based on what the army told them, it is certain that Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul did not survive and therefore the two soldiers were proclaimed as deceased even without a body.The importance of declaring the two soldiers’ death is in avoiding a situation where Hamas could make demands for the return of the soldiers, such as release of Hamas murderers and terrorists. The family even had a military funeral for Hadar.In May this year, the family’s pain and struggle received national attention yet again following a recorded session at the Knesset, where Goldin and another bereaved parent confronted a number of members of the Knesset, something that brought their situation back into the public eye. Following that session, in which the prime minister also participated, many accused the most outspoken members of the Knesset of lack of respect, and this led to many discussions about what it means for the families and for Israel that soldiers’ bodies still remain in the hands of Hamas. Goldin has a PhD from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, specializing in software engineering. Her husband, Simha Goldin is a professor of history, specializing in the Jewish communities of Ashkenaz (nowadays an area in Germany) in the Middle Ages.In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, she said, “It is the leadership’s mission to bring back soldiers from battle. This is the meaning of leadership, and this is the meaning of kol Yisrael arevim ze la’zeh (all Israel [Jews] are responsible for one another).
“After three years,” she continues, “we have lost our innocence and we see things as they are. We understand that things get lost in irrelevant interests. Politics is killing us.” Asked if she thinks that the family’s struggle has brought any change, she says, “The public is with us. People now understand and they want to stand up for these values [bringing back bodies of fallen soldiers]. People believe that it is possible to beat the enemy [Hamas], that we mustn’t be afraid of the enemy.”She insists that there is a lot that the government can do and is not doing in order to bring Hadar and Shaul’s bodies back to Israel for a proper burial.“This is also a humanitarian demand,” she emphasizes. “Why is it that we keep talking about the humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza and don’t consider this issue as such?” she asks. “We can cut down family visits to security prisoners [who are in prison in connection with terrorist activity], or cut down humanitarian aid, or reach an exchange agreement in which Israel can return bodies of Hamas people.” “But I am not the one who should give solutions,” she says. “It is the leadership’s responsibility. They sent the soldiers into battle and they should bring them back. Nobody asked me if they should go to Gaza and how, so we are not the ones who should be bringing the solution. “We are losing our pride and our powers of deterrence. Hadar went to protect the state of Israel. He didn’t go on a trip to India and now needs to be rescued… He is an outstanding officer who went to protect the state and we still believe that the same leadership [that sent Hadar into Gaza] is capable of doing it [bring him back]… They also need to understand that this is what the public wants.”According to Goldin, bringing soldiers to Jewish burial is an “absolute Jewish value.” “It is also the Zionist value of the people’s army,” she adds, “that you don’t leave soldiers behind. It is the value of comradery… In Israel every family drafts a soldier, so this story is the story of the entire people of Israel. There is no mandate to send soldiers without bringing them back – in whatever condition, whether on two feet or on a stretcher.”