The grief of one mother; the hope of another

Bitterly conflicting emotions in the Haran and Goldwasser households.

miki goldwasser 224.88 (photo credit: Channel 10 [file])
miki goldwasser 224.88
(photo credit: Channel 10 [file])
After 29 years, Nina Keren still cries when she speaks of her son, Danny Haran, who along with his four-year-old daughter Einat was brutally murdered by Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar on the beach in Nahariya. On that April night in 1979, Kuntar and three comrades from the Palestine Liberation Front kidnapped Danny and Einat from their home. Haran's other daughter, Yael, age two, was accidentally smothered to death as she and her mother, Smadar, hid from the terrorists in the apartment's crawl space. "I think about him [Danny] all the time," Keren said in Kiryat Tivon on Thursday, as a tear ran down her face. The same was true of the two little girls, she said, spreading old photographs and newspaper clippings across the coffee table in front of her. Her wrinkled hands tore at a white tissue. "I have 15 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. [Yet] I miss the ones who are not here," she said. The news that Kuntar may be released from prison in exchange for IDF reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, who were kidnapped by Hizbullah in July 2006, has rattled her. "It's painful," Keren said simply. A large black and white photo of Danny hangs on her living room wall. On a dresser, inside a wooden frame, is a collage of family photographs, including ones of the girls. She is opposed to Kuntar's release, but acknowledges this is a difficult position to take. "If they [Regev and Goldwasser] are alive, I would understand it," Keren said, even though "I do not want [Kuntar] to be freed. They promised that they would never free him, so it is like they are going back on their word." The way Kuntar killed her granddaughter by bashing her head in was "savage," she said. "It is not fair to let him go. In prison, he was like a king. He was studying, he had everything. The [Lebanese] newspapers are making a hero out of him, his pictures are everywhere," she said as she shook her head. Then Keren voiced the fear behind the headlines on the prisoner swap. "But what if they [Goldwasser and Regev] are dead?" she asked. "Then it is a dangerous deal." In the future, terrorists groups such as Hizbullah will kill Israelis they capture, rather then keep them alive, because they know they can get a high price anyway, she said. Her son, Ronni, one of her four remaining children, told The Jerusalem Post that as a former soldier, he could not give up on the IDF's maxim of returning everyone from the battlefield. If Goldwasser and Regev were alive, then Kuntar should be released, Ronni said. Otherwise, like his mother, he was against letting Kuntar go to Lebanon. But for the families of Goldwasser and Regev there is no question that Kuntar must be released. Before going to sleep on Wednesday night, Ehud Goldwasser's mother, Miki, penned an emotional letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert urging him to trade Kuntar for her son. "I had a very difficult day, but I couldn't go to sleep without writing this letter," Miki wrote. Earlier Wednesday, members of the two families had met with the Ofer Dekel, who has been negotiating for the release of the two soldiers on behalf of the Prime Minister's Office. While Miki and the Regev family have refused to divulge the contents of that meeting, in her letter she wrote of the her deep concern that Israel would fail to meet one of Hizbullah's key demands for a deal: the release of Kuntar. "When the Defense Ministry invited the heads of the army to discuss with them the release of Samir Kuntar for the return of my son, Eldad, there were those who opposed it. How do they have the gall to do that. They were the ones who were partners to the failures that allowed him to be captured in the first place," Miki wrote. "To the specific complaint that more [Israelis] would be kidnapped if Kuntar would be returned, I can just say that if Kuntar had been returned during the [Elhanan] Tennenbaum deal, you would not be reading this letter today," wrote Miki. She argued that Israelis would be safer after Kuntar's return to Lebanon. "If Kuntar is not returned, more people will kidnapped," she said. In particular she was concerned about Israelis traveling abroad. "Nasrallah is determined to return Kuntar, come what may," Miki wrote. In addition to the physical danger to Israelis from additional kidnappings, there was also the emotional toll, she wrote. Those IDF officers who were pushing for the deal understand the crisis of trust that would be caused should the government fail to get the two soldiers back. And Israel's international standing would be harmed if it caused the deal to fall apart, while Hizbullah would be strengthened both abroad and among it own people, she added. Convinced that her son is still alive, Goldwasser said there was no way to determine the status of the two men. All that was known, she said, was that her son was wounded in the upper arm when he was captured. Then there are the words of Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who said his group "took live soldiers. The rest of the evidence Israel has regarding the two men comes to them from trusted Lebanese sources," Miki said. She can not resist reflecting on the story of IDF soldier Hezi Shai, who was taken during the First Lebanese War and was presumed dead, but then was released in 1985. "They told his wife to sit shiva. His wife refused," Goldwasser wrote in the letter. The Regev family on Thursday also spoke of the need to get the two men back. "I want to ask the government to free our sons to come home. That is the most important thing," said Eldad's father, Tzvi Regev. Keren said no government representatives had spoken with her since Danny was murdered in 1979. No one has called to warn them of Kuntar's possible release. Even on the morning of Danny's death, she heard about the attack from her son Baruch. She spoke in English, which she learned as a girl in China, where she was born in 1926 to Russian parents. She came to Israel in 1949 with her husband, David Hirschhorn, who was also a Russian Jew, and Danny, who was born in China in 1947. She notes the irony that both her family and Olmert's both came to Israel via China. The night before he was killed, Danny had telephoned. Her husband, David, was on the phone with Danny for a long time and finally their impatient guests said, "Tell Danny you can talk with him tomorrow. You have company now." So in a move they have regretted ever since, they hung up the phone. The next morning, Keren had just woken up when her Baruch knocked on the door of their home. "I opened the door and he said, 'I have to tell you something about Nahariya.'" Immediately, she had a feeling that something had gone wrong with Danny and his family. "I said, 'Tell me only that they are alive.'"