July 17, 2008
Despite our sense of peoplehood and declarations that “we are one,” some incidents serve to remind us of the unbridgeable distance between American Jews and Israelis. One such incident is the impending exchange — set to take place after this newspaper goes to the printer — of captive Israeli soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev (or, we hate to say, their bodies) for jailed terrorist Samir Kuntar, four Lebanese prisoners, and the remains of about 200 Hizbullah operatives.
We can only pretend to understand the emotions behind the Israeli ethic of repatriating its sons and daughters, soldiers and citizens alike. And we can politely debate whether such exchanges only encourage terrorism — or, in their demonstration of a profoundly Jewish regard for the dignity of the living and the dead, serve as the ultimate rebuke to an enemy with so little regard for life.
One way in which we close the gap is in the depth of feeling and sympathy we extend to the families of the captives. Karnit Goldwasser, Ehud’s wife, has been a frequent visitor to New Jersey. She has advocated for her husband’s return — or at least news of his whereabouts and well-being — with courage and equanimity. We have been awed by the poise she displayed, when so many of us would have been paralyzed by grief and anger.
We can only pray that the exchange brings her and the other parents, spouses, siblings, family, and friends of the soldiers the measure of closure that they deserve.
These kinds of abductions, Karnit once told a local audience, are not just the victims’ concern. “It is a problem for the free world, for the Jewish community, for everyone,” she said. “This is what makes me wake up again tomorrow with the same mission, but with more energy, to keep trying.”