All Simha and Leah Goldin want is to be given their son’s body to bury.
“This is the basic, humane thing to do, in all religions,” said Leah Goldin, whose son, Hadar Goldin, was killed in 2014 by Hamas fighters during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.
Goldin was 23 years old, a lieutenant in the Givati Brigade of the Israel Defense Forces, when Hamas combatants “ambushed him and killed him and kidnapped his body,” dragging him through one of their tunnels, said his mother, who spent this week in Washington, D.C., hoping to convince the U.S. government to help retrieve her son’s body.
Her son’s death took place two hours after a cease-fire had been declared.
“We are here to get help from the Jewish people and the ones who love Jewish people,” she said. “All the world is now suffering from terror. Everyone should care.”
The Goldins know their son is dead; the IDF retrieved enough of his forensic remains to declare him dead. They even held a funeral for Hadar, who was engaged to be married.
But the family will never have closure, and evil will continue, unless their son’s remains are returned, said Leah Goldin, a computer scientist.
Simha Goldin, who sat silently through most of the interview, is a professor of Jewish history at Tel Aviv University.
They know Hamas would prefer to keep her son’s body as a bargaining chip, hoping to trade it for their members in Israeli prisons. But the Goldins have an idea.
Many countries are contributing funds and construction materials for housing developments and business projects to rebuild Gaza. The Goldins are asking that the return of their son be tied to the reconstruction and “be included in this humanitarian issue.”
They want the return of their son’s body to be a requirement before any funds or materials are trucked into Gaza.
Leah Goldin doesn’t believe the Israeli government will offer any prisoner exchange for her son’s body. Her country is in no mood for such a swap after more than 1,000 prisoners were returned for the release of Gilad Shalit, who had been abducted by Palestinian militants, she said.
“Let’s not let Hamas dictate the price. It’s time for Israel to determine a price for not returning the body,” she said.
And because U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon worked out the cease-fire during which their son was killed, the Goldins believes both men should broker the return of the body.
They have written to Ban at least three times, and were told, “He was not available to us,” Leah Goldin said, adding that he did send a letter wishing the Goldin family well that he hopes there will be peace in the Middle East.
“Hadar was a victim of a cease-fire rather than a war,” she said. “Hamas took advantage of this and ambushed him,” she said. Hamas “should not be rewarded for the violation of a recognizable ceasefire.”
That desire is what brought the couple to the nation’s capital, in a visit arranged by the Israeli Embassy. However, they had few meetings planned. The embassy would not comment on their schedule.
Their son is not a bargaining chip, Leah Goldin insisted. He was an artist who studied Jewish philosophy for two years before joining the IDF. His favorite book, The Path of the Upright by Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, was found with his body.
His paintings have been exhibited in Israel and may soon be displayed at Park Avenue Synagogue in New York.
His twin brother, Tzur, recently was discharged from the IDF and is preparing for college. “He wants to study everything, philosophy, economics, religion, international relations,” his mother said.
While the Goldins don’t have much to show for their efforts, they are “always optimistic,” Leah Goldin said. “We believe in our cause. We believe in people. I believe these two things will help us achieve our goal.”