Latest update: July 23rd, 2012
Now that Gilad Shalit is home, it is time for Israel to have a national discussion about the price of redeeming captive soldiers and the rights of terror victims.
There is an American law, originally called the Koby Mandell Act, that established an office in the Justice Department with the aim of keeping American citizens who are victims of Palestinian terrorism informed and empowered. Perhaps Americans, leveraging that law, can help Israel start the discussion about passing a bill in the Knesset that demands that terror victims’ families be accorded rights in the judicial process.
Sadly, Israel has not paid enough attention to the families of terror victims whose murderers were released. Since Shalit’s release there has been little discussion in the media about those families.
There is an official Israeli government list of released killers but all it says is the name and date of birth of the killer, when he was arrested and what is referred to mysteriously as the solution: where they were sent after their release. The official list says nothing about who was killed. The official list disregards the victims.
As a mother I understand the Shalit family’s insistent campaign to release their son and I would have done the same. But as a citizen I believe it is the job of the government to insist there is also justice for the victims’ families.
The victims’ families must have a voice in any future discussion of prisoner “exchanges.” They are the ones who are traumatized when terrorists are released to celebrate in the streets, to mock the pain of bereaved families, to murder again. All you have to do is view the TV clip where you see the smiling face of the woman who planned the Sbarro suicide murderer when she learns the number of children she killed, and you see the chilling price of this release.
No family should have to go through the hell the Shalit family went through – but at the same time, the government must protect the rights of victims. It is time to pass a law in the Knesset that institutes a terror victims’ rights program in Israel, advocating for the rights of terror victims and their families. There is already a victims’ rights program for criminal law. It is time to extend that protection to terror victims, even in matters of state security.
Further, we need to discuss how Israel can continue as a society where justice is jettisoned so quickly. As a result, the Dutch orphans of the Sbarro attack feel they have to leave Israel because the memory of their parents’ deaths, and the deaths of three of their siblings who were 14, 4 and 2 when they were murdered, is mocked and diminished.
As the mother of Koby Mandell, who was murdered by terrorists, and the co- founder of the Koby Mandell Foundation, which assists families who are bereaved by terror, I work with many of the families whose murderers were released in the recent prisoner “exchange.” We run ongoing support groups for the mothers and summer camps for over 400 bereaved children.
I want to tell you the stories of terror victims’ families so that you will understand the need for families to be included in any future decisions: The pain of the families at seeing their loved ones’ murderers free is indescribable. And the fact that government didn’t inform them before, didn’t prepare them in any way, is reprehensible.
Avichai Levi and Aviad Monstour were 10th graders, murdered in June 2005 on a Friday afternoon. Aviad was on his way home carrying a cake to celebrate his parents’ anniversary. They were both shot at a bus stop. Nechemi Sagron was injured in the same attack. Three months later, the same terrorists killed Yosi Shok, near Beit Hagai.
About the Author: Sherri Mandell is co-director of the Koby Mandell Foundation (www.kobymandell.org), which runs programs for bereaved families in Israel. Her book "The Blessing of a Broken Heart" won a National Jewish Book Award in 2004.
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