Israel prepares to honor its war dead and those killed in acts of terror at Remembrance Day 2007, also known as Yom Hazikaron. Coming just months after last summer’s Lebanon II war, the people of Israel have those killed in this unfortunate episode to add to many others who have fallen in battle or were killed by acts of terror since the founding of the state. Also to be remembered are the three captured Israeli soldiers: Eldad Regev, Ehud Goldwasser, and Gilad Shalit. Shalit was captured in late June when his patrol unit was attacked on the border with Gaza; Regev and Goldwasser were captured by the Hezbollah July 12 on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon – an act which sparked a war that ended more than a month later with more than 150 Israelis killed, including 38 civilians from 4,000 Katyusha rocket attacks.
Since the early 1980’s and the war known as Operation Peace for Galilee, or Lebanon I, a number of Israeli soldiers have been reported as either missing in action or captured. So far, none of these soldiers have returned alive, and many, including Air Force Flight Navigator Ron Arad, have been missing for years. It was only in the Yom Kippur War that some captured prisoners were returned alive, many after spending several months as prisoners in either Egyptian or Syrian jails or prison camps.
The reality of this past and recent scenario is that Israeli soldiers captured alive do not appear to have much likelihood of ever coming home again to their families; alive that is.
Recent optimism concerning a prisoner exchange with the Palestinians for the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit seems to be constantly frustrated as demands made by the Hamas dominated Palestinian Authority for the inclusion of prisoners with “blood on their hands” are just not acceptable by Israel. In regards to the other two being held by the Hezbollah, their spiritual leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, knows how to play on the emotions of concerned relatives as they did several years back when the remains of three Israeli soldiers, and a reserve officer named Elhanan Tenenbaum, were exchanged for more than 1,000 Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners.
On Sunday night, April 22, Yom Hazikaron will begin in Israel with a special memorial ceremony at Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem. While special remembrance flames will be lit there, and at numerous ceremonies around the country, we must all pause to say a prayer for the three captive soldiers and hope that they will soon be released and back with their loving families.
That’s what Yom Hazikaron is all about: not just to memorialize the dead, but to pray for the living as well.