'Don't forget our kidnapped children'

Noam Shalit: "The agenda has gone in a different direction, towards a war."

kidnapped troops 88 (photo credit: )
kidnapped troops 88
(photo credit: )
The families of kidnapped soldiers Gilad Shalit and Ehud Goldwasser met Saturday to support each other, share their experiences and discuss how they could work together to secure their sons' freedom. "It was a first meeting," said Noam Shalit, father of Gilad who was captured by Hamas on June 25 near Kerem Shalom on the border with Gaza. "They [the Goldwasser family] asked to meet with us to learn about our own experiences." Shalit said he did not meet with the family of the third kidnapped soldier, Elad Regev, 26, from Kiryat Motzkin, who was taken by Hizbullah along with Goldwasser last Wednesday on the Israeli-Lebanese border. "We talked about how we should organize ourselves for the future," said Shalit in an interview with The Jerusalem Post Monday. He said that the families had decided to wait and see what happens in the next few days. "The agenda has gone in a different direction, towards a war," continued Shalit. "People, civilians, are getting killed, more soldiers are getting killed but we won't let people forget about us." Mikki and Shlomo Goldwasser - who had been working as emissaries in Durban, South Africa when they found out their son had been kidnapped - also met in the past few days with the parents of Benny Avraham and Omar Sawayid, soldiers who were kidnapped along with Adi Avitan in a Hizbullah ambush in the Mount Dov region in October 2000. The bodies of the three soldiers were returned to Israel in a 2004 prisoner swap. "They asked me to meet with them to help them with my experience," said Benny's father, Haim, adding that he had also spoken with Regev's family. "The first few hours and days after the kidnapping the families are always in shock, I didn't want them to make the same mistakes that we made in the beginning." Avraham went on to describe how, when his son was taken, the family "sat in silence, that was a big mistake. We should have spoken out and met with the right people." He added that he had passed onto the Goldwasser and Regev families important telephone numbers of international humanitarian organizations and had advised them on how to obtain accurate information and updates on the status of their sons from army and government bodies. "They gave us a lot of hope and reminded us to be strong," commented Yair Goldwasser, the brother of Ehud. "They also gave us advice on how to handle things and how to emotionally stay together." Despite the escalation of violence between Israel and Lebanon, the families of the kidnapped soldiers are remaining optimistic. Avraham said he believed the Israeli government was doing all it could to get "these boys back." "Even during the fighting, all the staff are there to help them get through this difficult time," he said. Shalit said that because of the growing intensity of the situation, it might take a little longer to secure the release of his son. "I know there are things going on under the surface to get Gilad released," he said, but would not elaborate. "Regarding the other two soldiers taken by Hizbullah, their situation is a little different." According to Yair Goldwasser, the army has not disclosed any information about Ehud's whereabouts or about any plans regarding upcoming military courses of action. For now, "the most important thing is for us to be all together and to remain optimistic," he said.