Esther Wachsman: It's the same record playing again

Mother of soldier kidnapped in 1994 says gov't and IDF haven't learned from their mistakes.

Esther Wachsman, mother of Nachshon who was kidnapped and killed by Hamas terrorists in October 1994, has told The Jerusalem Post that the army and the establishment have learned nothing from her son's ordeal. "No one is so blind as those who will not see," said Wachsman poetically, during an interview late Wednesday night. After initially refusing to speak to the hoards of reporters that have been hounding the family since news of Cpl. Gilad Shalit's kidnapping made world headlines Sunday, the Jerusalem mother and grandmother says she now has a few things "I want to get off my chest." "I still don't know if I am doing the right thing talking to you now," said Wachsman, "but I am a believer and there was a purpose for what happened to us." That purpose might be for Wachsman to share her insights with the Shalit family on how to cope with their ordeal or it might be to send a message to the country's politicians of what can be drawn from Nachshon's experience; she is not sure. However, what Wachsman is sure about is that nothing has really changed since that fateful week 12 years ago. "It is the same record playing over again," said Wachsman. "I am really wondering if they learned anything from the experience with us. It's almost like they have blinders on and are not looking left or right." She continued: "Watching these events, we are right back there. It doesn't just arouse memories for us, the phrases being used this week are identical to what was said to us." Wachsman is referring to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's hard line that Israel will not negotiate with the terrorists holding Shalit and will not release Palestinian prisoners with blood on their hands. "All this talk about not speaking to the terrorists is nonsense," said Wachsman. "In the end, they released Palestinian prisoners with blood on their hands for three dead soldiers and they released Sheikh [Ahmed] Yassin for two Mossad agents." Wachsman highlighted a 1997 article she wrote for the Post entitled "Three years too late." In the piece, the mother of seven pointed out that the family had begged then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin to negotiate with the terrorists, to give in to their demands and release Hamas spiritual leader Yassin for the sake of her son. "We stated that Yassin was ill, and Israel did not want him to die in prison for fear of repercussions. We also believed that since Yassin had not been executed, sooner or later he would be freed in some future "deal" and we felt that Nachshon's life was a worthy enough cause for such a deal," wrote Wachsman in the article. She added that the answer was always a firm "No." "Perhaps Yassin had to be released to save two Jewish lives, but it is three years too late to save one precious life: my son's." "If I sound bitter it is because I am," said Wachsman in the interview this week. "This all throws me back, the circumstances are not identical but all the talk around it is." As for the Shalit family, Wachsman said: "I don't know what they are telling the family. They told us nothing when Nachshon was being held for six days. We only heard about events after the fact. We did not wait for anyone to help us; we initiated contact with diplomats and used our dual citizenship with the US to get attention." Wachsman said that her decision not to talk about her own experiences earlier this week was solely out of respect to the Shalit family. "Our outcome was not a good one and I thought it would be demoralizing for them to hear about our experiences," she finished. "I just hope and pray it will all end well for them."