Ex-captive's father shares pain of soldiers' families

Haim Avraham knows all too well what it's like to wait for a son to return home from Lebanon.

haim avraham 224.88  (photo credit: Courtesy )
haim avraham 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy )
Haim Avraham knows all too well what it's like to wait for a son to return home from Lebanon. His son, Benny, was one of the three soldiers abducted by Hizbullah in a cross-border attack on their convoy in October 2000 and held captive for over three years, only to be returned in a coffin by those who had maintained all along that he was still alive. That exchange which was the last swap between Israel and the Lebanese terrorist organization, was eerily similar to the upcoming swap, set to take place on Wednesday. While reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev have been held for two years since a similar attack on their vehicle, it seems as though their fate will be known only after the exchange has gone through and they are returned to Israeli soil. But the two years of waiting, wondering and uncertainty as to whether they should grieve or hope, has undoubtedly hit the families of these soldiers the same way it hit the Avraham family, the family of St.-Sgt. Adi Avitan and the family of St.-Sgt. Omar Sawaid. "It puts the families under terrible pressure," said Avraham on Tuesday. "It's been two years, and the story is in the press so much, it's just an awful situation." But, Avraham explained, it was Hizbullah's intention from the start to toy with the Israeli public and the families to exert pressure on the government and get what they wanted - most notably, the release of their prisoners from Israeli jails. "[Hizbullah leader Hassan] Nasrallah uses the media to do these things," Avraham said. "He looks for the opportune moment to give hope or play with people's emotions, even though it's been said from many sources, that [the soldiers] were no longer alive." Avraham cited a report on Tuesday from the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, which said one of the captives had been killed in the attack and that the condition of the second remained unknown, as evidence that Nasrallah was purposely leaking information to the press to stir up emotions in the Jewish State. The article in Al-Akhbar, which purportedly has close ties with Hizbullah, also stated that the group had a video of the 2006 cross-border raid. "They have a deep-rooted hatred. That's where this comes from," Avraham said. "It's the same story with the Ron Arad report - it's all a bunch of lies." Nonetheless, Avraham said he had a close bond with the Goldwasser and Regev families, having endured a similar episode to theirs. "I called the Goldwasser family today and spoke to Shlomo, the father. I told him that I'm thinking about them a lot, and my thoughts and prayers are with them," he said. When asked how he felt about the opposition to the exchange, the opinion that it would embolden terrorist organizations or give them more incentive to kidnap soldiers in the future, Avraham admitted that "the dilemma does exist." "But we have 1,300 terrorists in our jails - so now we'll have a few less," he said. "It doesn't matter. If this one doesn't kill, the next one will. As far as those who say it weakens our soldiers' will to fight, I say the opposite - it strengthens them. Now we're able to tell the soldiers that we expect them to fight, and that we'll bring them home no matter what."