IDF heroes protest government ‘inaction’ in returning fallen soldiers

IDF heroes returned medals of distinction to protest government’s perceived inaction in getting back the bodies of two IDF soldiers. 

By: Batya  Jerenberg, World Israel News

A small, plain box was placed at the gate of the prime minister’s residence Sunday afternoon.

Inside it were 400 medals and battle pins awarded to officers, non-coms and soldiers for various  battles they had fought for Israel.

Twenty were from reserve soldiers who fought in Operation Protective Edge in 2014. They went in person to Balfour Street in Jerusalem to deliver them to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, protesting his government’s failure to retrieve the bodies of their comrades St. Sgt. Oron Shaul and  Lt. Hadar  Goldin, whose bodies have been held by Hamas since the end of the military operation.

Denied entry by the security guards, they proceeded to read a letter to Netanyahu in which they expressed their anger and frustration over the fact that four years after the war ended, Shaul’s and Goldin’s bodies have not yet been returned.

“We decided to return our battle pins that we received for our service,” the letter reads in part. “A medal that does not represent values is worthless. Operation Protective Edge is not over until the last of the soldiers returns to his home and family.”

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They also pointed out the betrayal they felt over the government’s inaction.

“We, former soldiers who presently serve as reservists, enlisted knowing there is an unwritten agreement between the State and its soldiers that it is obligated to bring us home after the war, whether dead or alive,” they wrote.

Placards at the scene also reminded passersby of the two live hostages being held by Hamas since they crossed the border — Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed.

The Goldin family was very appreciative of the gesture. It was one they did not initiate, Hadar’s twin brother Tzur said, but he called it “an exceptional event” that points to how poor the loyalty is to IDF soldiers.

The family has actively tried to prod the government in several ways. They have petitioned the High Court several times to try and get the judges to force the government to adhere to its own Cabinet decision of January 2017 not to give terrorists’ bodies back to Hamas until the two killed in action are returned.

The family has publicly demanded that humanitarian aid to Gaza be contingent on the return of the soldiers’ bodies. They have been holding weekly protests near the Gazan border, with the latest one on Friday attracting some 4,000 Israelis who flew blue kites in a counter gesture to the hundreds of terror kites and balloons being sent by Hamas to burn down fields, forests and nature reserves over recent months.

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The family’s anger is focused on Netanyahu personally, as expressed poignantly at the first weekly protest, which took place soon after Netanyahu’s revelation in May of the Mossad’s success in spiriting away half a ton of intelligence material from Iran.

Leah Goldin, Hadar’s mother, asked, “After the prime minister’s fiery speech on the intelligence coup about [Iran’s] nuclear activity, how is it that you can do that but not manage to get Hadar back? We certainly have the ability. What we’re missing is the prime minister giving the green light – and he just doesn’t want to.”

Last week the Goldin family boycotted the official memorial service for soldiers killed fighting Hamas during Operation Protective Edge.