Five years later, the fight for Hadar Goldin's body lives on

Tel Aviv art exhibit opens with the late Hadar Goldin’s cartoons and sketches

Cartoons and sketches by Hadar Goldin at the “Smile with Hadar” exhibit (photo credit: REBECCA ARATEN)
Cartoons and sketches by Hadar Goldin at the “Smile with Hadar” exhibit
(photo credit: REBECCA ARATEN)
Leah Goldin is calling on the international community to “bear responsibility” for the return of her son, Hadar Goldin, from Gaza.
Goldin was speaking on a conference call Wednesday, a day before the anniversary of her son’s kidnapping by Hamas in 2014, and she said she will not let the world forget.

Two hours after the UN brokered a ceasefire to end the 2014 war with Gaza, known as Operation Protective Edge, Hamas terrorists kidnapped 23-year-old Lt. Hadar Goldin and dragged him into an underground tunnel in Gaza. After years of waiting, his mother still has yet to see her son’s body, which Hamas refuses to hand over.

In the five years since Hadar’s death, Goldin has been advocating to the Israeli government and international lawmakers, entreating them to pressure Hamas into compliance.

She explained that the attack took place during a ceasefire that US Secretary of State John Kerry brokered, along with other diplomats from the United Nations. She maintains that Hamas should be held accountable for violating it.

The methods of bargaining that have been used in the past, however, do not appeal to Goldin. Previous agreements, such as the ones for the release of IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, have required Israel to return imprisoned Hamas terrorists in exchange for captured Israelis. In Goldin’s eyes, these types of deals are “blackmail.”

“It’s time to change the equation,” Goldin said. “Instead of having them kidnapping my son and bargaining about the release of terrorists, it’s about time for our government and other UN state members to set the price for Hamas and their representatives by saying, ‘You should pay the price for your standing violation of international humanitarian law and holding our citizens and soldiers.’”
Goldin reasoned that international pressure would be sufficient, because “Gaza wouldn’t survive one day without international support.” She said that the UN has “the leverage” to request the return of missing persons. The UN has been providing Gaza with extra humanitarian support, including desalination technologies and energy infrastructure, she said, and recommended that the UN stop providing this aid until the missing Israelis – including soldier Oron Shaul, and civilians Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed – are returned.

“Gazans are getting all their basic needs,” Goldin said. “What we discuss is whatever they get on top of it.”

In June, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2474, which calls upon warring parties to do all they can “to actively search for persons reported missing, to enable the return of their remains and to account for persons reported missing.” This is a step forward for Goldin. At the end of the month, Goldin will meet with the secretary-general of the European Parliament to discuss the possibility of a resolution demanding the return of her son.

There are also steps that the Israeli government can take, Goldin said. For example, large Israeli hospitals that provide health aid to Hamas leaders should cease doing so until the missing persons are released, she said, adding that she expects Netanyahu to play a role in bringing about this result.

“As the prime minister and defense minister, he’s the one that sent Hadar to fight in Gaza, and he’s the one who’s responsible for every soldier, no matter their condition: alive, wounded or dead,” she said. “This is the contract, the unwritten contract between Israel authorities and the families.”

Goldin has immortalized her son through her activism and through the Hadar Goldin Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to bringing Hadar’s body back. But she has also immortalized a totally different side of him: his artistic personality.

Hadar’s cartoons and sketches are now on display in an exhibit called Smile with Hadar, which opened Tuesday night with a VIP reception and intends to bring to light Hadar’s “artistic and humorous face.”

A Chagall-inspired painting of a fiddler on a roof and doodles in the margins of an officer’s training notebook are among Hadar’s works that are currently on display at the exhibit, which is located on the ground floor of the Tel Aviv Cinematheque. The exhibit is part of Animix, an international cartoon, comics and animation festival.

Goldin said that drawing had always been a part of Hadar’s life.

“He drew from age zero,” she said. She mentioned photographs of a two-year-old Hadar sitting at a table, with markers lying in front of him. Although Hadar did not define himself as a cartoonist, drawing and sketching was a part of his life experience, she said.
Hadar’s etchings and drawings drew inspiration from Israeli cartoonist Shai Cherka, according to his family. Although he did not know Hadar while he was alive, Cherka said that he feels attached to Hadar and his story.

“The feeling of connection is very strong and has followed me all the time since,” he said at the event.

Although Hadar’s renderings are comedic and include witty captions and wild facial expressions, a more serious message lies beneath.

“Between the smiles and between the laughs, you begin to see the truth, and you begin to see things about yourself in a slightly different, slightly less serious way,” said Hemi Goldin, Hadar’s older brother.

Leah Goldin pointed out a notable image cartoon that Hadar had created in 2007, which he had entitled “Hadar – In 10 years from now.” He light-heartedly portrayed himself as a counselor for a Bnei Akiva, as a student in a dorm room and as a romantic with a beautiful woman. Near the center of the drawing was a sketch of Hadar as a soldier, wearing a protective helmet and holding a gun. Beneath the image, he had written, “Hadar in commando saves Israel.”
“This event and many other events that will take place testify to the characters that our fighters are: they’re illustrators, and musicians and brilliant scholars,” said Hadar’s father, Simha Goldin. “When they go out to combat, the parents and they need to know that in the end, the nation who brought them out to combat will bring them back home.”