My blood ran cold as I watched Wednesday's prisoner exchange take place at the Israel-Lebanon border. Those chilling images, courtesy of the live feeds broadcasted by every Israeli news channel, showing Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser finally coming home. That horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach, as I watched those two black coffins change hands, knowing that we have failed them; failed their families. Failed ourselves.
It took two excruciatingly long years to get them back. Twenty-four months of their families walking around in a daze of living hell; numerous weeks where every family in the country felt their pain, prayed for their sons' return and thanked God it didn't happen to them.
That, however, is not what sent the temperature in my veins plummeting: That was done by hate. The pure, unadulterated, palpable hatred emanating from the surreal images of the Lebanese side of the border, showing the Lebanese people cheering for a despicable, vile murderer as if he were a long lost hero.
One could almost see the future neon signs in Beirut's streets: "Hizbullah Productions Presents: Samir Kuntar, Superstar – the musical"; coming soon to a theater near you. A surefire hit, if ever we saw one.
And that man, for lack of a better term, crossing the border with an undisguised, sinister glee in his eyes; walking through the "triumphal arch" erected by his fans, embracing his brothers in terror, awaiting what I'm sure he thought were well deserved celebrations in his honor. After all, there's nothing like hordes of people screaming your name to make you feel good after a few dozen years in prison. Apparently, we were just a few hysterical teenagers short of an "E! True al-Manar Story."
One has to ask all those devoted Lebanese mothers, what is it about this homicidal maniac that makes him such a celebrity? What honor is there in bashing in the head of an innocent little girl?
Will we forgive ourselves?Eldad and Udi's abduction left us torn. The subsequent war left us bleeding. The Regev and Goldwasser families have paid theultimate price for what can only be described as the Israeli government's impotence. A government which is such a firm believer in the tried and true doctrine of "never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow," that it waited too long and did too little, until is was much, much too late. This is the same government which promises, swears, assures us that Israel will never cease its search for Ron Arad. But with Kuntar free, there are no more wildcards, not one single ace left in the hole. What, pray tell, will we use as leverage in Arad's case now?
Oh yes, the government got our boys back; but when this cabinet is done patting itself on the back and praising itself for its brave decision, it should do well to remember that hugging a cold slab of stone isn’t exactly every wife’s and mother's dream. The Regev and Goldwasser families were at least able to get some closure. Tami Arad doesn't even have that.
And what of the Haran family? The living aside, a four-year-old girl, her two-year-old sister and their father are looking down at us, but we dare not look back at the heavens, for we have failed them as well.
They, I believe, understand the horrible choice we were faced with, the gut wrenching decision we had to make. They, I believe, assign no blame, no shame. They, I believe, forgive us. All that's left now is to see whether or not we'll be able to forgive ourselves.
Sharon Gilad is a Ynetnews editor