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April 10, 2017 1:41 pm

Mother of Fallen IDF Soldier Whose Body Is Still Being Held by Hamas Nearly Three Years After Gaza War: We Hope Trump Administration Will Take on This Issue and Help Us Solve It

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Interview

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley meets with Leah and Simha Goldin in February in New York City. Photo: US Mission to UN.

Monday marks the start of the third Passover since Simha and Leah Goldin’s son Hadar — an IDF lieutenant — was killed in battle with Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip. While memories of Operation Protective Edge are starting to fade in the minds of many Israelis, the war is still ongoing for members of the Goldin family, who have yet to be able to bury their loved one — whose body was kidnapped and is still being held by Hamas.

“Bringing a soldier back to Israel to burial is, first and foremost, a humanitarian issue,” Leah told The Algemeiner ahead of the holiday during which Jews celebrate freedom. “This is an important value in all religions. It’s about human dignity.”

In February, Leah and Simha visited the US. The highlight of their trip, Leah noted, was a meeting in New York City with new US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley.

“She was great — very positive and responsive,” Leah said. “Her husband is a military officer, so her whole attitude toward our case is very sympathetic. She agreed to help.”

Haley promised, according to Leah, to raise the issue with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the Security Council.

“Hadar was killed two hours after a ceasefire was declared,” Leah noted. “So he was actually a victim of a ceasefire, not a war. Since this ceasefire was brokered by the UN and US, they should be at least somewhat responsible for his return.”

“The Trump administration has a different attitude [from the Obama administration] towards terror and a different approach towards countries that support Hamas,” she added. “The whole atmosphere is different. We hope that the administration will take this on as an issue and help us to solve it.”

The main challenge, in Leah’s view, is to draw President Donald Trump’s attention to the matter.

The late Hadar Goldin.

“Countries in the region, like Qatar and Turkey, are trying to renew relations with the US and be friends,” Leah said. “It would be great if Trump, in his conversations with the leaders of such countries, would say, ‘I want good ties with you, but you support Hamas. What is going on with Hadar and Oron?'” — referring to Oron Shaul, another IDF soldier who was killed in Gaza in the summer of 2014 and whose body has also not been returned.

“This would be easy,” Leah went on to say. “It doesn’t cost money. It’s a matter of values.”

Leah also said she hoped American Jewish groups would make her late son’s case a priority item on their agendas.

“After all,” she said, “burial in Israel is a very basic Jewish value.”

Expressing disappointment in the Israeli government’s handling of the issue, Leah stated, “Instead of waiting for Hamas to declare a price for Israel, it’s about time Israel decides the price for Hamas for holding the bodies and for kidnapping them in the first place. Practically, it means putting pressure on Hamas so the bodies will become a burden, rather than an asset. Right now, there is no pressure.”

“We want to tie our small humanitarian issue to the bigger humanitarian issue of rebuilding Gaza,” she continued. “Our hope was that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as part of the reconciliation agreement with Turkey last year, would precondition humanitarian aid to Gaza on the return of Hadar and Oron. He didn’t do that, even though he promised us and the Shaul family he would. And since then, nothing has happened.”

Hamas, Leah said, “is a neighborhood bully. We can’t let it determine how we live our lives.” And the group’s use of bodies as bargaining chips, she believes, marks a “new kind of terror.”

“What we suffer now is ongoing terror against families and, eventually, against society,” she said. “This is a fight of values. The return of dead soldiers to let their families give them a proper burial has been a basic humanitarian issue since ancient times.”

Furthermore, she declared, “It’s not only our problem. It’s the Western world against the barbaric world. The more they succeed, then we lose, because we get weaker. We have to fight for our values. We must be stubborn and not give up.”

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