"The bargaining being held these days over the life of a captive soldier, which the State sent out to fight, is shameful in my opinion," she said.
According to Arad, the situation was similar in 1986. "The truth is that this bargaining took place 24 years ago too, but I must have been too naïve and young to understand. At the time, I refused to understand that my man has a price. Looking back, I see how easy it is to talk about a price, to use the words "not at any price" when the person in question is not your child or your husband."
Arad said she wished she had acted like the Shalit family. "I thought that after so many years I would make peace with the feeling accompanying the captivity. When I try to analyze the reason why I don't visit the Shalit family at their protest tent every week, I realize that I must be trying to distance myself from the missed opportunities, from the hoped which proved to be false, from the pangs of conscience over my failure to hold a hunger strike outside the Prime Minister's Office, my failure to move to live outside his doorstep.
"I think I am trying not to face the helplessness again, but I am facing it and it will likely forever be before my eyes. When Noam and Aviva (Gilad Shalit's parents) told me they were moving into the protest tent, I told them it was probably the only way. Retroactively, I'm not sure that would have brought Ron back, but I might have felt better with myself, or not."
Ron Arad's brother and daughter in Shalit protest tent (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
According to Arad, 24 years after her husband's aircraft crashed, "We, Ron's family, have turned into his monument. I have learned to live with it, but I have not learned to live with the numbness over the life of a captive soldier.
"I identify with the pain of loss felt by the families of terror victims. I can't pretend to understand their pain, perhaps their need for revenge. But I think that the attempt to make the public believe that the State of Israel's power of deterrence depends on a captive soldier is not serious, misleading and unfair.
"It's the leadership's duty to face bereaved families courageously and say clearly, 'The State of Israel will know how to safeguard its citizens even after the release of terrorists from its jails. The dead cannot be returned with all the pain. Gilad Shalit can still be brought back.' Ron, I remember painfully, could have been returned."
'Captivity like a collapsed mine'
Arad mentioned the successful rescue this week of 33 miners in Chile, who spent 69 days 700 meters (2,300 feet) underground.
"The unprecedented rescue campaign of 33 miners, who were trapped underground in a Chile mine, took more than two months. The last miner was rescued on Thursday. This is not a similar situation, as Hamas or the Iranians are not the forces of nature, but one cannot avoid thinking about captivity using the terms of a collapsed mine. A dark pit, weak light and compressed air. We cannot not admire the resources and improvisation abilities which the Chilean government recruited to rescue these people," she said.
She also discussed the attempts to receive information about her husband. "For years I was told that the State of Israel had turned every stone in a bid to bring Ron back, had put soldiers and agents in risk for his sake. I believe many efforts have been made and I appreciate those who were there for him, but what was done took place after the pictures with the beard and the defeated eyes, after he wrote how much he missed us, after he asked us to do everything to save him, while promising not to leave us ever again. All these efforts were made after we stopped hearing from him."
She concluded her remarks by saying, "Tomorrow we'll mark 24 years to the life Ron could have had. He could have been 52 today, the father of Yuval like fathers should be, calming her down like I try to do, telling her that everything will be okay with her exams. He could have been the father of several other cute children, a genetic engineering professor at the Weizmann Institute or a high-tech man.
"I don't know if he'll ever come back, but I do know that when he does come back it won't be good news."
There are people who still wish me good news, she added. "When it comes to Ron, I don't know what good news mean. All I know is that when I let myself think about him it always ends with distress. After 24 years I am no longer angry, just disappointed and sad."
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