Among a somber gathering of teary-eyed friends and neighbors in front the Regev home in Kiryat Motzkin on Wednesday, a group of schoolchildren made their way to the front of the crowd. Voices died down and mourners paused for a moment as the children, led by their teacher from a nearby school, kneeled before a photo of Eldad Regev, whose coffin had been returned to Israel just hours before, and began to light memorial candles in his honor. "Why are you bringing children here?" one woman asked from the crowd. "Isn't it too much for them to see?" "Not at all," their teacher snapped back. "This is part of their country, and they should know that soldiers put their lives on the line to protect them, every day." "She's right," one woman responded as others nodded in agreement, and the children went on their way. Still, many of the people standing outside the apartment building expressed dismay at the news that Regev, a man they had watched grow up, was no longer alive. While it seemed as though much of the country was expecting bad news from the prisoner exchange at the border on Wednesday, residents of this working-class Haifa suburb had held out hope until the end that the man they called a neighbor would return from two years of captivity alive. "He sat next to me in synagogue," said Moti Bromberger, a family friend and community activist, as he leaned on a police barricade near the apartment building's entrance. "He was a quiet, modest young man who helped everyone, no questions asked. He was a special soul. His father as well, he's like gold. I don't even have the words to express how I'm feeling right now." An elderly woman, Julie, stood fighting back tears as she spoke of Regev. "I wanted so much to believe he was still alive," she said. "They're such a sweet, respectful family, and him, just look at that face, those eyes." She motioned to Regev's photo at the entrance to the apartment building. "He was always busy, studying law at Bar-Ilan [University] and running off to reserve duty, but he was a sweet boy, and it tears my heart to think that he's gone." "I saw him the day he left for reserve duty," another woman said. "If only I had stopped him, he would still be here with us now." Others spoke of Regev as a man who never showed off, who was quiet in his ways and bold in his actions. After his mother passed away - nearly 10 years ago to the date his body was returned from Lebanon - Regev finished his studies at Mitzpe, a religious elementary school in Kiryat Motzkin, and continued his education at the nearby Yeshiva High School in Kiryat Shmuel. From there, Regev fulfilled his military service with the Givati brigade, taking a trip to Thailand with his friends after he was discharged. At the time of his abduction, he was enrolled in Bar-Ilan University's pre-law preparatory course, planning to attend the university's law faculty when the course concluded. "He studied with my son in Kiryat Shmuel," said a man standing away from the crowd with a sullen stare. "Eldad was the kind of guy who was a friend to everybody, an exceptional guy. This is a hardworking family, a quiet family, and it's a sad day for them. It's a sad day for the people of Israel." Later in the afternoon, OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Shamni arrived to notify the family officially that Regev's remains had been identified. Some of the mourners expressed their anger that the families hadn't been notified sooner, saying that the Regev family had seen the television coverage of the prisoner exchange, and only when two black coffins were presented at the Israeli border did they know for sure that Eldad was not coming home alive. "I told the family about the positive identification of Eldad's remains," said Shamni as he spoke to reporters after meeting with the Regevs. "They are a brave and courageous family, and we are informing the Goldwasser family as well." Later still, Tzvi Regev, Eldad's father, told reporters: "Thank you to the people of Israel for reaching out to us and supporting us through this difficult time." A family spokesman told reporters: "We held on to the possibility that they were still alive. Over the last year, we began hearing reports that they were hurt or wounded, but all along, we kept up hope."