Kidnapped soldier’s kin ask U.S Jews for help

Kidnapped soldier’s kin ask U.S Jews for help

Karnit Goldwasser is looking for a sign that her husband is alive.
The wife of Ehud (Udi) Goldwasser — one of two Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah near the Israel-Lebanon border on July 1′ — Karnit, together with Udi’s father, Shlomo, told ’50 people at Temple Sholom in River Edge last Thursday that they will go anywhere, and speak to anyone, if it helps get them that information.

Addressing what a spokesman for UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey called "an impromptu press/community conference," the Goldwassers, accompanied by Karnit’s mother, Daniela Avni, said they were there to talk about Udi, and to enlist the help of anyone who might be of assistance.

"Maybe someone will know someone who knows [something about] Hezbollah," said Udi’s father. "I want just one sign that he is alive," said Karnit.

Shlomo Goldwassser, father of captured Israeli soldier Udi Goldwasser, told a River Edge audience that fundamentalists are at war with the entire free world. Udi’s wife, Karnit Goldwasser, said she is looking for proof that he is still alive. photo by alan grossman

The family’s visit to the United States was being funded by the United Jewish Communities, the umbrella organization of the Jewish federation movement. UJA-NNJ coordinated their appearance in Bergen County.

Karnit Goldwasser is 30 years old. Udi is 31. The two met nine years ago at the Technion in Haifa and were married in October ‘005. Karnit, who served two years in the Israeli Air Force, was born in Nahariya, as was Udi. Both have degrees in environmental engineering and are now graduate students. They live in Haifa.

Karnit told the Bergen County audience that July 1′, the day Udi was kidnapped, was to have been his last day in the reserves. At 9 a.m., as she was cooking a special meal to welcome him home, she heard on IDF radio about the trouble at Udi’s base and tried to get in touch with him. He did not return her text message and she became concerned. A friend came to keep her company.

"I will never forget the look on my friend’s face — she turned white," Karnit said of her friend’s reaction when a delegation of four or five officers came to the door. The group told her that one of the soldiers killed by Hezbollah had not yet been identified and that two more were missing. They did not yet know if Udi was the dead soldier. At 11 p.m., Karnit learned that Udi was one of the two who had been kidnapped.

"My entire family came," she said, noting that some 60 people, family and close friends, gathered together to give each other support. And, said Karnit, "We decided that we had the power to change it and bring him back home."

While the family has had several meetings with Israeli government officials and speaks daily with people in the government about the situation, there has been no word on Udi’s whereabouts or well-being.

"People ask me, where do I get my strength. I get my strength from him," Karnit said. "He’s thinking of me, and gets strength from me. He knows I’m worried, [but] I will bring him back."

On the day she spoke, Hezbollah missiles targeting Israel had reached as far south as the city of Akko. Karnit Goldwasser told the audience that while she originally thought she would be safer in Haifa than in Nahariya, she soon realized that no place was safe. She also reminded those in attendance that it was not just the kidnapping that precipitated the current situation but the firing of rockets from Lebanon into Israel.

The last six years, said Karnit, "life in Israel was great — the economy, tourism, peace." But Hezbollah spent that time — and money — on weapons. "Why?" she asked. "The Israelis and the Lebanese want a peaceful life, to go movies and a concert. But some people think differently."

Karnit described her husband as a man who reads a lot, considers all sides of an issue, and loves nature, photography, and music. The couple recently spent three months in the Far East, where they sought out non-Israelis, wanting to tell them about the "true" Israel. She said they told people they should visit, that the situation’s not as bad as it looks in the media.

She thanked the UJC for bringing the family to the United States and told those assembled that she knows "we are not alone. You provide energy. I will keep some for myself, and send some to him."

Shlomo Goldwasser said he wasn’t in Israel at the time of the kidnapping. A supervisor for a shipping company, he was working in Namibia. When he learned that there was trouble in Israel and that Karnit could not reach Udi, he flew back immediately.

"Why are we here? Why are we traveling?" he asked. "We don’t have anything else to do…. There is no school to teach you what to do when your son is kidnapped."

"People ask about Israel’s ‘overreaction.’ After all, it’s ‘only’ two soldiers," he said. "But when you look now at the situation on the border, you can understand that the whole free world is being targeted by fundamentalists. They are using our values as a weapon against us…. It’s the same people who [did] 9/11."

This is not just Israel’s war, he said, and "there is no other way to fight with these people." He said that the free world is happy to see Israel fighting a common enemy, but if Israel is not successful, "they will be in your backyard — no, right in your yard. They will kidnap your son. Their enemy is [all] the free world."

Goldwasser said he and Karnit have spoken in London and Paris and have met with Jews and non-Jews, government officials, and the press. "We’re going anywhere," he said, "hoping our words will reach the right ears." He noted that public officials have generally been sympathetic, and the family has encountered "good will and empathy."

Asked by the press about the notion of prisoner exchange, Goldwasser said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had said earlier in the week that he would do his utmost to secure Udi’s release. "He said ‘everything,’" said Goldwasser. "I believe he would do it."

Following the presentation, UJA-NNJ president Dan Silna announced that the Goldwasser family was going directly to Washington, D.C., to speak with government officials. Avi Naiman, chair of the group’s overseas committee — who had just returned from 11 days in Israel — spoke of the tremendous damage he witnessed in Nahariya and presented Karnit with a mosaic bracelet, representing, he said, the partnership of our two communities.

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