Regev, Goldwasser families call on gov't to up efforts to release soldiers.
By TOVAH LAZAROFF
"I parted from you without a mother's kiss, because you don't like kisses. So I gave up on it that once," Aviva Schalit said, recalling the last time she saw her captive son, Gilad.
Thursday night in Haifa, she read an open letter to Gilad at a rally on behalf of the three soldiers kidnapped last year.
In a rare public appearance on the anniversary of the start of the Second Lebanon War, Schalit looked out at the crowd of thousands and spoke as if she were talking to her 20-year-old son.
"My dear Gilad," she said as she recalled how she had taken him part of the way back to his base on June 22, just three days before he was kidnapped by Hamas next to the Gaza Strip.
"It was the last time I saw you and heard your voice," she said. Later that day, she called him, but his cellphone was off.
Nor was she successful in the days that followed.
"On Sunday, after I heard about the incident, I left you a message on your phone to call me. I'm still waiting," she said.
Schalit recalled for Gilad some of the events of the last year - including how Hizbullah kidnapped reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev on July 12, an event that sparked last summer's war.
"On August 20th we celebrated your birthday and I was sure you would be with us to celebrate Rosh Hashana," she said.
The holidays passed, "and you didn't arrive," she added. "A year has passed, 12 months, 55 weeks, 382 days. I'm counting days and I am imagining that you are counting the seconds. You're good at math."
The horrible year that has passed for her family, Schalit said, was nothing compared to what her son has endured in captivity, where he was "wounded, alone, in the dark, in hell."
"Gilad, we won't be quiet and we won't let another year pass without you," she said. She promised she would do everything she could to bring him home by continuing to meet with world leaders and other influential people.
In reference to the argument over whether or not the price that Hamas has demanded for Gilad's return was too high, Schalit said, "Nothing is too dear."
One should not quibble over what to pay for children who are sent on military missions for the state the way one might argue over the price of an apartment or a car, she said.
This past year, the Schalit family has heard from their son twice. In September, they received a letter, and a year after his capture, Hamas sent them a cassette on which he spoke to them.
But the Regev and Goldwasser families have heard nothing from Eldad and Ehud.
Regev's mother passed away nine years ago from cancer. His sister-in-law, Tair, spoke at the rally. She called on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to fulfill their obligations to the three men by doing everything in their power to bring them home.
Tair said if Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah truly desired the return of the men held in Israeli prisons, he should negotiate a prisoner swap. "Why aren't you hurrying to reunite your mothers with their sons," she said.
Miki Goldwasser, Ehud's mother, also appealed to Lebanese mothers to support a prisoner swap.
"Mothers shouldn't be afraid of threats," she said. "I have written to you and asked to meet with you, but I haven't gotten an answer. But I'm calling on you from here: Rise up and fight for the release of your sons."
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