Monday, July 03, 2006

No strength for silence

By Esther Wachsman

I don't know if we're living in George Orwell's "1984" - where good was bad, bad was good, peace was war and war was peace - in Chelm, the city fabled for its stupidity, or in evil Sodom. In any event, this is not the country I moved to 36 years ago out of Zionist enthusiasm, as the daughter of Holocaust survivors.

At that time I felt that I had the privilege of being part of the history of this new/old country, to get married here, to give birth to my seven sons in the Jerusalem to which we had prayed to return for 2,000 years. There was no mother prouder than me when my oldest son joined the Israel Defense Forces, wearing the uniform of the Golani Brigade, and his two younger brothers did the same. Nachshon was our third son to join the elite Orev Golani unit, and we were very proud that he had fulfilled all the expectations on which he was raised: love for the people, the land and the heritage.

And then, in October 1994, our Nachshon was kidnapped by Hamas. In a tape that was transferred from Gaza and played on television, he was seen appealing to then prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, with a rifle aimed at his temple, with his hands and feet bound and with a terrorist pushing him to speak. And he spoke: "The group from Hamas kidnapped me. They are demanding the release of Sheikh Yassin and another 200 murderous terrorists from Israeli prison. If their demands are not met, they will execute me on Friday at 8 P.M."

We lived the six days from the time he disappeared in total uncertainty with respect to his well-being, torn the entire time between terrible fear and great hope. We appealed incessantly to everyone who could help - prime ministers and presidents the world over, and especially to then U.S. president Bill Clinton, since Nachshon was also an American citizen. We appealed to the leaders of Arab countries with which Israel did not have diplomatic ties and to Islamic leaders, and all of them (including Sheikh Ahmed Yassin) made announcements in all the media outlets that the soldier should be released.

We did not know at any stage that our intelligence officials had located the house in which Nachshon was being held, and we did not know that Rabin had decided on a military operation to free him - a decision that sealed his fate, and for which Rabin took full responsibility. We did not know that Nachshon was in Bir Nabala - 10 minutes from our home in the Ramot neighborhood of Jerusalem.

On Friday night - we were not listening to the radio or watching TV because of Shabbat - we sat and waited, our eyes glued to the door, waiting for Nachshon to enter. And then the head of the IDF Personnel Directorate walked in, and we knew that the worst had happened. Only then were we informed of the discovery of the house, and of the military activity in the course of which Nachshon was shot to death and Captain Nir Poraz was also killed.

We sat with our deceased all of Shabbat. We buried our son on Saturday night, 11 Heshvan (exactly a year before the Rabin assassination, which also took place on Saturday night, at the same time we buried our son).

Now we are once again going back there. We think and feel and fear and hope as we did then. We hear the same things, like "Abu Mazen is guilty, Haniyeh is guilty, the soldier's blood is on their heads," although in our time it was Yasser Arafat. We hear "We will not negotiate" and "We won't give in to terror." This is the Israeli destiny, they say.

I am not calling for the release of murderers, but they should not insult our intelligence because they have negotiated and they have given in to terror - in the Jibril deal, and in the agreement in which the bodies of our soldiers who had been abducted by Hezbollah were returned, and in the deal with Elhanan Tennenbaum, and in the release of Sheikh Yassin when two Mossad agents failed in their attempt to assassinate Khaled Meshal. Everyone knows the bloody price we paid for the release of these murderers.

It's very difficult for me to understand the mentality of our leaders, on both the right and the left. It's difficult for me to understand the response given by then vice premier Shimon Peres - who announced that he had won the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Rabin and Arafat, on the same Friday on which the ultimatum was issued on my son's life. Peres was asked his opinion on the "peace" that he had achieved in Oslo in light of my son's abduction, and he responded that peace processes involve "calculated risks." When Peres came to comfort us after the funeral, I told him I felt he had come to comfort a family on the death of a son with no name - that he was simply a "calculated risk" in his dream of a new Middle East.

Until now, I have not spoken to the media - which have come to me once again, from all over the world and of course, from Israel - primarily because our story ended so badly, so tragically, and I thought it was best that I not be heard, that I not damage the morale of the Shalit family or of the Asheri family. I have not stopped crying since the body of the Asheris' son was found.

I am speaking up and writing to you now solely due to the inspiration of Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Hacohen Kook, the first chief rabbi of Israel, who said: "I am not speaking because I have the strength to speak; I am speaking because I do not have the strength to be silent."


At 6:16 PM, Blogger Oleh Yahshan said...

interesting that you would bring this, and while I agree with her in principle, the soldiers life is more important than anything in my eyes (I thought you said he was just one Corporal), I also have to think about what will happen if we do give in. Just like we didn't respond to the kassams and saw them flying for 10 months (much less now that we are all over them... hmm...), and our use of force stopped terrorist from taking over planes in the 70's (it's 30 years today for Entebbe). Maybe, just maybe not giving in to threats here will stop them from using this method as well. Maybe!

At 9:21 PM, Blogger Gert said...


"interesting that you would bring this, and while I agree with her in principle, the soldiers life is more important than anything in my eyes (I thought you said he was just one Corporal)"

He is indeed just one Corporal. Perhaps you would find razing Gaza to the ground justified if that brought him back (which of course it wouldn't), well, that's your prerogative. Few will agree with you on that. Israel has in the past negotiated succesfully in similar circumstances, as have the Governments of other states. I hope young Gilad will make it home safely but that goes without saying.

"Just like we didn't respond to the kassams and saw them flying for 10 months"

Israel responded consistently to the Kassams with 155 mm artillery shelling. You too know that's a fact. We even discussed it briefly together.

At 11:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Violence begets violence.

Surely you know that? Since if you don't - and untill you realize - you're beyond help.

At 5:35 AM, Blogger Oleh Yahshan said...

you and I both know that the 155mm shells did nothing to stop them (as did the Israeli Govt. know) - it is called "under use of force". Had we done what we are doing now after the first rocket fell - while everyone would have screamed at us (including you) it might have ended the Kassams back then...
Oh and the guys who Murderd the kid from Itamar Handed themseves over to the IDF this morning... I wonder why they would do that??

as for your one corporal - how much is he worth?? What if he was british? would he be worth more?? How is Life worth today on the World Market?? Entebbe was Just one plane (Air France plane), Maalot was "just" one School...

At 11:00 AM, Blogger Phu said...

"as for your one corporal - how much is he worth?? What if he was british? would he be worth more?? How is Life worth today on the World Market?? Entebbe was Just one plane (Air France plane), Maalot was "just" one School..."

What if he was British? was a funny thing for you to write.

If, as it seems, you can value the life of one Israeli over the lives of the Palestinian people altogether, you are in no position to accuse Gert of such sentiments.

At 1:08 PM, Blogger Oleh Yahshan said...

I am not valueing any life over another. But I am not the one saying "just one Life" (no matter who's it is).

The Israeli army has done everything it can to put pressure on the PA without Killing anyone. So far the only ones Killed (since we started this... Fiasco) had a bomb on them.. the other ones that died were in self accidents (One fired a Kassam from inside his house and another fired his gun at his wife while cleaning it).

I do not Value one life over another. I would love nothing more for this entire thing to be over so that both Israelis and Palsetinians don't get killed by each other (if we could stop killing ourselves I would love it as well but that's a world problem not Local).


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