Gadi Goldwasser, brother of kidnapped Israeli soldier, Ehud Goldwasser, speaks to students at Queens College Hillel.
By Aaron Cohen
After finishing his three years of mandatory service in the Israeli army, Gadi Goldwasser decided it was time for a vacation. He, his girlfriend and his best friend flew from Tel Aviv to New Delhi, rented three motorcycles and began the long ride across Northern India. With nothing but beautiful scenery in all directions and an unfamiliar culture to explore and discover, he could not possibly have been more at ease.
“It was the happiest time of my life, true happiness,” remembers Goldwasser.
He and his friends had been traveling through Northern India for a few weeks and had been completely out of touch. It was not until they reached the city of Kaza in the Spitty Valley and a café with internet access that they were able to reach home. It was there that his girlfriend received an instant message, telling her to have Goldwasser call home immediately. At first he was hesitant to reconnect with the real world.
“I was so detached, I didn’t want to call home,” said Goldwasser. But he soon realized the urgency of the situation when he checked his voice mail. On it there was a message from a brother telling him that Hizballah forces had kidnapped his older brother, Ehud. He was to return to Israel as fast as possible; the government would cover all of his expenses.
“In a matter of seconds, I had fallen from a state of true happiness to the darkest despair. I was falling spiritually into depression and confusion, breaking to pieces,” he said. “Luckily, my fall was broken by my voice of reason. I was grabbed from the fall, my logic started to operate and I started to think properly. I’m in the middle of nowhere; I’m on a bike, and need to come home as soon as I can.”
Tortured with thoughts of what his brother must be going through, Goldwasser started the long journey home. He and his friends rented a jeep and driver, put their motorcycles in the back and early the next morning set off on the 12-hour drive to the city of Manali. There they were taken care of by The Warm Israeli House, a safe haven for Israelis traveling in India. “They knew about my story, they were looking for me, they gave me a room and food but I couldn’t eat,” said Goldwasser.
The Warm Israeli House arranged for a taxi and the next morning took him all the way to New Delhi, another 12-hour ride. An Israel Defense Force correspondent was waiting in New Delhi with a plane ticket to Bangkok where Goldwasser caught a flight back to Israel.
Four and a half days later and 4 kilograms lighter, he finally made it home. When he arrived at his house, his family was in the middle of a meeting with Defense Minister Amir Peretz. "While getting home was a relief," said Goldwasser. "The relief was only temporary.”
The family had moblized. “My family started to fight back. We could sit in the house and wait or raise the issue and talk to everyone we could,” he said.
The Goldwassers have made great efforts to keep their son's plight in the public eye. They organized a rally in Tel Aviv, intended to apply pressure to the Israeli government and the world community. They have held intense and emotional meetings with Israel’s top government officials, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Those meetings have not satisfied Goldwasser or his family. “He (the Prime Minister) represents Israeli action and we still have no answers as to Ehud's condition or even whether he is still alive. It is his responsibility to give us these answers," he said.
During an international tour to raise awareness of his brother’s kidnapping, Goldwasser made an unplanned stop at Queens College Hillel, where I was fortunate enough to be able to sit down with him for a short interview.
He is traveling the world in an attempt to personalize his brother’s story. He wants people to realize that there is a human being behind the picture seen on TV. “Ehud was the one who guided me. Every problem I had, he was the one I went to. He was working on his master’s in environmental engineering. He wanted to help the planet. He was the type of person the world really needs, not just because he is my brother,” said Goldwasser.
During our interview, he remembered a conversation with Ehud, a month before the kidnapping.
“I said: ‘Don’t make me come home, I'm having the time of my life.’ I meant don’t make me come home by having a baby with his new wife, not because of this," he said.
Despite the lack of success in securing the release of Ehud, Goldwasser and his family will continue to fight. “[There are] no results at all, whatsoever, and it is our humanitarian right to know if he is alive and his condition,” he said.
Yet when asked if he thought he would ever see his brother again, Goldwasser replied, “If I didn't, I wouldn't be here right now."
Aaron Cohen is a sophmore at Queens College.