'At least we know the truth now, despite the pain'

Regev said that watching his child's body slip into the open grave was terribly painful; "To bury a son is the hardest thing there is."

Zvi regev crying 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Zvi regev crying 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
On the last weekend of his life Ehud Goldwasser, 31, went out to celebrate with his friend Rafi Blankstein because he believed that he had been released from his stint of IDF reserve duty. At his funeral in Nahariya on Thursday, Rafi's mother, Hannah Blankstein, kept bursting into tears as she told the story to The Jerusalem Post in the intense midday heat. She has been a friend of the Goldwasser family for many years. Blankstein recalled the last time she saw Goldwasser, who was like a second son to her. It was July 2006 and Goldwasser had been on a short break from reserve duty. He had come to say good-bye to Rafi, who was leaving for Canada the next day. "Then he got a phone call that he didn't need to return to reserve duty. To celebrate they [Ehud and Rafi] decided to go to a pub," Hannah Blankstein said. "That is my last picture of them, when they went out to have a good time." At the time, Goldwasser's parents were temporarily living in South Africa. Excited at the thought that he was now out of harm's way, Hannah wrote an e-mail to his mother, Miki, saying he had been released so she needn't worry any more. But the next day she received an e-mail from Miki saying he had been recalled to reserve duty to replace someone who hadn't been able to make it at the last moment. It was just four more days, Blankstein said, so it didn't seem that bad. The day that Hizbullah attacked Goldwasser's unit, killed him and six comrades and made off with his body, leaving family and friends in the dark for two years as to his fate, her son Rafi called her from Canada. Still believing that Ehud had been released to civilian life, Rafi said: "It was good that Udi [Ehud] wasn't there." The day's events were confusing, Hannah said. First they heard Goldwasser was dead, and then that he was missing. "I didn't know what to do, Shlomo and Miki [Ehud's parents] were out of the country," she said on Thursday. For two years, she held onto the hope that somehow Ehud would return. "To tell the truth I believed [Hizbullah leader Hassan] Nasrallah more than our own government. It sounds funny, but that's what I thought," she said. Some of Nasrallah's statements were encouraging; he said they took the two men alive, that Israel should expect a "surprise." Even on Wednesday, watching the prisoner swap on television, she expected a miracle. Wiping her eyes with a tissue Thursday, she said that despite the pain, it was easier to know the truth. Tzvi Regev, whose son, Eldad, 26, was killed along with Goldwasser and whose remains were also taken by Hizbullah, said that watching his child's body slip into the open grave was terribly painful. "To bury a son is the hardest thing there is," he said as he sat shiva on Thursday afternoon in the small Kiryat Motzkin apartment where he raised his four boys; Eldad was the youngest. Hoping his son would come home, Tzvi had left his room almost exactly as Eldad had left it, with its narrow bed and small closet. But he had hung a prayer for the return of missing soldiers on the wall. The dark entryway to the building was filled with memorial candles. In the traffic circle outside, an Israeli flag hung at half-mast. Upstairs, Tzvi said that he was relieved that this chapter of not knowing was over. "We will persevere," he told the Post on Thursday. "We will continue with our lives." On Wednesday night, Tzvi stood over his son's flag-draped coffin in a tent at the IDF's Shraga base near Acre and spoke out loud, even though he knew that Eldad could not hear him. "I told him, 'You died a hero,'" Tzvi said Thursday as he sat in his living room with his shirt torn in mourning. His words were echoed by President Shimon Peres, who visited both the Regev and Goldwasser family on Thursday afternoon. Sitting on a folding chair next to Tzvi, Peres said of Eldad Regev, "He was a brave man who died defending his country."