Memorial candles lit for Regev, Goldwasser

Two large, white 48-hour memorial candles set in place at Beit Hanassi.

peres candle 224 88 (photo credit: AP )
peres candle 224 88
(photo credit: AP )
As Wednesday's prisoner exchange with Hizbullah was carried out, two large, white 48-hour memorial candles - for Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev - were set in place at Beit Hanassi, standing in tall glasses on a black-draped stand and surrounded by six white roses. President Shimon Peres watched the television coverage of the jubilation in Lebanon that greeted the return of terrorist Samir Kuntar, whose pardon Peres had signed the previous night. The president had authorized Kuntar's release with a heavy heart and the stipulation that he would neither forgive nor forget the terrorist's brutal killings, or the fact that he had never expressed remorse. The bodies of Goldwasser and Regev were returned to Israel as representatives of Shahaf (a Hebrew acronym for "Active Social Involvement Communities") had convened at Beit Hanassi to tell the success stories of groups of young adults working on social and educational projects in the nation's periphery. But the exchange put a pall on the event. By his own admission, Peres was troubled by what to he had had do to ensure that Israel could fulfill its commitment to bring home every missing soldier. Peres stood behind Michal Sela of the Hashomer Hatza'ir youth movement as she lit the candles. After a minute's silence, he mounted the rostrum to voice his feelings. In Lebanon, he said, heads of state and the Hizbullah leadership trumpeted the "victory," as dancers welcomed the man who had crushed the skull of four-year-old Einat Haran and shot her father in cold blood. "In Israel, people were weeping," he said. "Today, we are all the Goldwasser and Regev families. We paid a painful price to bring home Ehud and Eldad to their final resting place - with us, with all of us, with the living and the fallen. "We can see where lies the joy and where lies the sadness, but if we ask where is the great moral victory and where is the defeat of all that is humane in the unbelievably baseless reception for a murderer - or in the memorial candles for our loved ones - the answer is clear." In comparing the reactions in Lebanon and the reactions in Israel, Peres said Israel's reflected the true meaning of justice and the victory of man. Decrying the joy with which a murderer was greeted, he said Lebanon should be ashamed, adding: "We bow our heads to our fallen heroes, but our stature will remain erect, as befits a people whose guidelines are based on morality." Peres has not yet decided whether to attend the funerals on Thursday, but said he would be in touch with the families, with whom he spoke on Tuesday night immediately after signing the release papers. According to one of his spokespeople, he would likely pay visit the Goldwassers and Regevs to express his condolence. In deference to the period of mourning, Peres has deferred a farewell reception for the Israel Olympic delegation, which was scheduled to take place on Thursday.