Parents of MIAs urge Shalit family to stay strong

Supporters include families of Nachshon Wachsman, soldiers killed and held by Hizbullah for 3 years.

shalit, gilad, 298 ap (photo credit: AP)
shalit, gilad, 298 ap
(photo credit: AP)
For parents of Israel's prisoners of war from the past or soldiers still missing in action, Monday's wait for more information on the welfare and whereabouts of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit brought back painful memories. While some - such as Esther and Yehuda Wachsman, whose son Nachshon was held hostage for nearly a week by Palestinian terrorists in 1994, and Rina Hever, mother of Guy, who was last seen at his army base on the Southern Golan Heights in 1997 - declined to comment on the current situation, others urged the Shalit family to stay strong and not to give up hope. One mother of an MIA soldier said simply, "I do not wish to be in their position right now." "The first 24 or 48 hours are very, very difficult," said Yaakov Avitan, whose son Adi was kidnapped by Hizbullah along with St.-Sgts. Omar Sawayid and Benny Avraham in an ambush in the Mount Dov region in October 2000. "Who knows what will happen, maybe everything will be sorted out in a few days." "The family has to stick together and be strong," he continued. "They have to keep up their faith and continue on in the name of their son." The bodies of Avitan, Avraham and Sawayid were returned to Israel in a prisoner exchange with Hizbullah in 2004. Avitan's words were echoed by Yona Baumel, father of Zachary, who was taken hostage in 1982 during the Lebanon War and whose fate is still unknown. "I know it is hard but the family has to stay strong; we never gave up hope [with our son] and followed every signal we got," said Baumel. "It is easy to ask others to be strong but they really have no choice, they have to do it for their son." Dr. Danny Brom, head of the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma, said that at this point, when still very little is known about Shalit's status, professional intervention to help the family cope with this trauma is not advised. "It is important that the family be kept up to date with all the information and that nothing be kept from them," Brom told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. "They should not have any doubts." Avitan said that not knowing what is happening to their son was probably one of the hardest aspects of the entire ordeal. "No one knows if he is dead or alive, wounded or in good health. It is that lack of knowledge that makes the experience even more difficult," he said. Brom added that the longer Shilat is held prisoner the more difficult the trauma becomes both for the family and for the soldier who has been kidnapped. However, he also said that many times in traumatic situations humans become very resourceful. "They switch into survival mode and it makes all kinds of conditions bearable," he said, adding that it was far too early to speculate the level of psychological damage such an experience can have on a person. "I don't believe that Israeli soldiers are taught how to cope with these kind of situations, except perhaps those in special units," concluded Brom. "It all depends on the individual and how resilient a person they are." Baumel added: "I don't believe that either the government or the army has learned anything since its days in Lebanon about securing the release of a kidnapped soldier. "In our time, all the politicians told us that no price was too high to get our boys back home," he continued. "It was all a load of baloney, they were just trying to grab headlines. People should just shut up and let the IDF units do their job." Shalit was taken prisoner Sunday when gunmen attacked an IDF post near Kerem Shalom, just outside the border with southern Gaza. The attack left two soldiers - First Lieutenant Hanan Barak, 21, and Staff Sergeant Pavel Slutsker, 20, - dead.