TORONTO — The process that led to the return of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev was based on Jewish values, Amir Gissin, Israel’s consul general in Toronto said at last week’s shloshim community memorial for the two soldiers.
Maj. Gen. Elazar Stern as seen on the large screen monitor.
Goldwasser, 31, and Regev, 25, were kidnapped by Hezbollah on July 12, 2006, in a raid on Israeli territory. Their remains were returned to Israel on July 15 in a prisoner exchange with Hezbollah.
“There was a lot of criticism about how the deal was created, but it shows that we care about each other, and that is what brought the boys home,” Gissin told a capacity crowd at the Toronto Centre of the Arts’ George Weston Hall. The event was sponsored by UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and more than 50 other Jewish community organizations, including shuls, social service agencies and schools.
Chen Shalita, an Israeli soldier who served in the Second Lebanon War, said that he didn’t know the two soldiers personally, but he still waited for their return.
“The Jewish people’s secret weapon is that we care for each other in a way that cannot be measured,” Shalita said.
“This cannot be taken for granted. It is this [caring] that made it possible for us to bring home [these soldiers.] This is a sad day for all Jewish people, but we must remember to build and support Israel.”
Maj.-Gen. Elazar Stern, who worked closely with the two families in the two years that Hezbollah denied them any information about the soldiers, said that the way they conducted themselves strengthened Jews around the world.
“I was the one to tell them that their loved ones had been abducted, and from the first moment it appeared that they were noble families. They [continued] to maintain their dignity,” said Stern, who is also the liaison with the family of Gilad Schalit, who has been held captive by Hamas since June 25, 2006.
In marking two years since the Second Lebanon War, he said, it must be remembered that “no matter where we come from, whether we are secular or religious, or [no matter what walk of life], there is only one Israeli army,” Stern said.
“We are proud of our soldiers, and we believe that we are the army of Israel and of the Jewish people.”
Stern, whose parents lived through the Holocaust and settled in Israel in 1949, said that if Israel had existed during World War II, there would not have been “that genocide. Israel is a Jewish state and a democratic state, and we must never forget that we all share the same fate.”
Elyse Lackie, co-chair of Impact, UJA Federation’s committee that connects Jews aged 25 to 40 to the community through philanthropic, volunteer and social opportunities, was MC for the service.
She said that all Jews grieved when the soldiers were kidnapped, “and our hearts collectively broke. We grieved with their families, with Israel, and with Jews around the world.
“Tonight we grieve together, along with Jews in Winnipeg and Calgary.” (Similar services were held in those cities.)
Rabbi Reuven Tradburks of Kehillat Shaarei Torah recited the Prayer for the State of Israel and the prayer for the members of Israel Defence Forces.
Cantor Gershon Silins of Temple Sinai chanted prayers for the dead and Hatikvah.