By Patrick Reilly.
Special to ASSIST News ServicePARIS, FRANCE (ANS) – The hopes and prayers of the families of three Israeli Defense soldiers taken hostage a year ago have intensified as an historic meeting is taking place between French officials and a delegation representing Hezbollah in Paris this week.
The hopes and prayers of the families of three Israeli Defense soldiers taken hostage a year ago have intensified as an historic meeting is taking place between French officials and a delegation representing Hezbollah in Paris this week.Israel is prepared to release 250 prisoners in return for Ehud Goldwasser, Elad Regev and Gilad Schalit, a French citizen who was just 19 when Hamas militants using a network of tunnels abducted him from inside Israel on June 25, 2006. To commemorate the first Anniversary of Gilad’s kidnap Hamas released an audio tape of him pleading for his family to do “all they can” to secure his release. He also said his health is deteriorating rapidly from the injuries he received during his capture.
Around the same time as the audio taped was released, a report on Channel 2 television claimed that Gilad was being held in the Gaza strip in an underground store room 15 meters below the surface. The report went on to state that the room is “lined with explosives.”
Gilad’s family traveled to Paris this week along with the Goldwasser and Regev families ahead of the planned meeting with Hezbollah.
On Monday they meet with the French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the Élysée Palace. He assured them he would do all he can to secure the safe return of their loved ones.
This morning when Karnit Goldwasser awoke she looked at the photograph of her husband Ehud smiling, she smiles back declaring her love for him. The couple had only been married ten months when he was taken hostage, along with Eldad, by Hezbollah.
Both men were patrolling the border with Lebanon when their two-vehicle patrol came under heavy rocket fire from militants who had cut through the security fence and lay in wait to launch the assault from inside Israel. The attack and kidnapping sparked the 34-day long, second Lebanese war.
Three young soldiers died in the attack when the rockets ripped through their Humvee vehicles. Two others were wounded and Ehud, along with Eldad, were dragged badly-wounded and bleeding from the mangled wreckage through the hole in the fence into Lebanon on what was Ehud and Eldad’s last day of military duty. Both men had packed their bags back at the army base eager to return home.
Nothing has been heard of them since, despite international efforts by political figures such as Hilary Clinton and the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who have met with the grieving families.
In April this year, Hezbollah cruelly taunted the families and Israel as a nation when they erected a large photograph of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev along Lebanon’s border with Israel in full view of Israeli soldiers and UN officials.
Lebanese security sources said the three-by-five meter photograph showing Goldwasser and Regev had been put up in Aita Al-Shaab, near where they were seized on July 12, 2006. Hezbollah supporters looked on, chanting anti-Israel slogans.
The suffering of Ehud, Eldad and Gilad and of their families is a heavy burden to bear knowing that five other Jewish families have endured years of “a living nightmare.”
Zachary Baumel, Yehuda Katz and Zvi Feldman have been held hostage for more than 25 years with periodic reports claiming they are still alive. For their families it has been a quarter of a century of hopes and prayers for the safe return of the “sultan yakoub three” who were last seen being “victoriously paraded” through Damascus, surrounded by a vicious mass of people lining the streets, dancing with delight and screaming for their blood, and the destruction of Israel.
In an interview five years ago Yossi Katz, father of Yehuda was quoted as saying “I am filled with faith.” He continued: “Faith can overcome all rational obstacles. My son is in the hands of heaven. That we have not fallen apart over these 20 years is a sign that we have something worth waiting for. All the time that there is no proof that Yehuda is dead, we have hope. Twenty years is a long time in the span of a human life, but in the span of spiritual victory, it is only a second. I am reminded of the passage in Zachariah 4:6: ‘Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit.’”
Ron Arad, a navigator with the Israeli Air Defense force, was taken captive in 1986 when his aircraft malfunctioned over Lebanon, forcing him and the pilot to eject from their fighter jet before it crashed.
In a daring helicopter rescue mission, the IDF were able to locate and rescue the pilot, but were too late to help Arad. A year after his capture his family received a letter from him. That was the last contact his wife and baby daughter had from him until 2006 when Lebanese Television aired a video of him looking gaunt and frightened. His daughter Yuval still hopes and prays that she will one day embrace the Father she dearly loves and whom she has yet to get to know.
The parents of Guy Hever are preparing themselves for the tenth anniversary of his disappearance on August 17. He was last seen on the Golan Heights dressed in his army fatigues, carrying his weapon and his international military identification papers (Geneva Convention Card). The area was searched thoroughly but today, there is still no clue about what happened to him.
For the eight Jewish families not knowing if their loved ones are even alive, or if they are being well cared for, has had a devastating side effect both physically and psychologically.
They live through every single day as if they are being held captive themselves. Seeing daily life go on all around is hard to endure. For many of them the love, support and prayers of Jews, Christians and Muslims gives them hope and strength to carry on with their campaign.
The Rev Robert Carroll based in the UK has worked tirelessly on behalf of the MIA’s and their families for years. Speaking to ASSIST News he said: “It is heart wrenching seeing what these poor people are suffering knowing their loved ones, all serving soldiers being held captive in a direct violation of the Geneva convention.” He went on to say: “We need to let these families know that we stand with them in their struggle and that we are praying for them.”
On the miauk.org website, Rev Carroll makes a passionate plea to those that hold the MIA’s captive. He writes:” My understanding is that these men are being held hostage somewhere in the Muslim world. They have now been held beyond what is morally acceptable. I make my plea on their behalf and also on behalf of their families and loved ones that they be released.
“In a world which is associating all the horrors of conflict with Islam, this is an ideal opportunity to show both compassion and mercy, which I know can come from your faith.
“I also know from passages of your most Holy Book, the Koran, that great respect is paid to Jesus. Jesus said in Matthew’s gospel, ‘Blessed are the merciful for they shall be shown mercy. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God,’ (Matthew 5: 7 & 9).
“He also said in the same chapter, and verse 6, ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. For those who pursue righteousness – there is much honor!’
“Please, in the name of mercy, compassion and God, let His people go!”
Two rallies are planned next week on Monday, July 16 for the MIA’s in Manchester UK and in New York at the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza (1st Ave.) organized by the conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and Community Relations Council of New York at 12.00 pm.