FRIDAY, AUGUST 1, 2014, Operation Protective Edge (OPE). A humanitarian ceasefire is brokered by the United States and the United Nations. Shortly thereafter, there is hardly an adult in Israel who is not whispering that a soldier from the Givati Brigade has been attacked and kidnapped – Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, whose twin brother, Tzur Goldin, was evacuating wounded Israeli soldiers from Gaza at the time.I was paralyzed by fear while the nation was glued to the images of Hadar’s wide smile and idealistic vision. He and Tzur had recently been filmed, graduating together as officers of the IDF. “There are two kinds of people, those who serve themselves, and those who serve big ideals... We were raised to serve Am Yisrael.” (Hadar)Motzei Shabbat (Saturday night) – the beit knesset (synagogue) at Hadar’s high school in Ra’anana is bursting; everyone waits silently for Tzur Goldin and for Hadar’s fiancée, Edna. What have they heard?Tzur feels Hadar is alive. Tehillim (Psalms) pour forth. Back home in Kfar Saba – the media have not left the entrance to their apartment block. At 1:00 a.m. the Minister of Defense, the IDF Head of Human Resources and the Chief Rabbi of the IDF arrive. Pieces of cloth from Hadar’s uniform were collected from the tunnel into which he was dragged. The blood on them indicates he was killed.The family quickly understands the importance to the nation of Hadar’s funeral – to save Am Yisrael from another “Gilad Shalit” trauma – to enable soldiers still in Gaza to return home.Some 18,000 people cram silently in the Kfar Saba military cem- etery. Top military brass and Cabinet Ministers honor Hadar and his family. Perhaps only those closest fully understand – huge funeral, full-size military coffin, but no body inside.It’s been the same every Remembrance Day since. Many newborn babies were named Hadar, annual marathons, hikes, a new university pavilion, nature lookouts, a pre-army academy, etc. etc. were instituted in his name ... the Am would not forget Hadar.That summer five families became household names: the families of Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah – the teenagers who were abducted and murdered by Hamas militants in June 2014, and the families of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, whose bodies have not been returned.These families speak clearly and Am Yisrael hears them. I feel Hashem meticulously chose these families. Perhaps we no longer need or deserve prophets, but Am Yisrael seems to need their reminding that it is special, and beautiful, and strong ... when we stand together. The Goldin and Shaul families kept dutifully silent for a year and a half. The minister of defense, the IDF head of Human Resources and the Chief Rabbi of the IDF solemnly promised, “We are guarantors that the State of Israel will act for the swift return of Hadar’s body from Gaza.” However, their return was not included as a condition of the ceasefire agreement subsequently signed in Cairo.Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and most cabinet ministers say, “We will not sign any agreement for the rehabilitation of Gaza that does not include the return of your sons’ bodies.” Prior to the signature of the “Turkey Agreement” this was mentioned as a condition for rendering humanitarian aid to Gaza. Upon signature in June 2016, this was omitted. No explanation.After urging by the families, the Security Cabinet finally met in January 2017 to discuss methods to pressure Hamas.In December 2017, the families had to petition the High Court to order the government to implement its own decisions. That month, the United Nations Security Council also held a special session concerning the repatriation of the remains of Hadar and Oron. Across the board, the assembled countries agree Hamas, and now also the Palestinian Authority, are acting outrageously and in violation of international humanitarian law.Nothing changes. Recently, Israel again surreptitiously returned terrorists’ bodies to jubilant cheering by Hamas. The Goldin family once again petitioned the High Court. The Chief of Staff said the bodies were returned “by mistake.”
These are matters that affect klal Yisrael (all of Israel), yet only the Goldin and Shaul families step up to the plate? In February, Tzur Goldin released a report, “Goldin – State of Affairs.” It is painful to read. Why do these worthy families feel alone and betrayed?The Goldins’ cry must be taken up by us all. “Reverse the equation: Hamas holds our sons’ bodies = Hamas pays the price!”I know that nothing is more important to the Goldin family than strengthening our people. For my part, I miss the lovely Hadar who was a frequent visitor in our home. Recently, our third beloved son began serving in a fighting unit of the IDF. I pray that G-d on High will look out for him. I pray we are not being merciful to the wicked and cruel to the righteous.I cry to my beloved country – “Please, let’s change the equation!” It’s the only way to prevent another tragedy like this.The writer lives in Ra’anana with her family.
Leah Goldin speaks at the UN Security Council: Humanitarian aspects of missing and captive persons in Gaza (Arria Formula meeting), December 22, 2017. (UN Web TV)