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Jewish Women


From the heart of a Jewish Mother

By Phyllis G. Heideman
The World's Largest Jewish Organization
May 13, 2001

On Wednesday, May 2nd, I had the privilege of meeting with and looking into the eyes of the families of Benny Avraham, Adi Avitan, Omar Souad and Elchanan Tenenboim. They are the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, wives, daughters and sons of four Israelis kidnapped last October and still missing today.

To serve one's country is an honor. To give one's life in the protection and defense of that country can be both tragic and heroic. But to be kidnapped by the enemy and held hostage is a despicable and cynical act on the part of the perpetrators. For the families left waiting and wondering about their loved one this illegal and inhumane act is a cause for sadness, confusion, uncertainty and fear.

Not a word has been heard from the kidnappers since their capture. International humanitarian organizations have not been granted access. The families remain uninformed as to their whereabouts, their health, or their safety.

What struck me most was the uncertainty the families face each day. They are unable to live with a free and full spirit because of the haunting reality of not knowing where their loved ones are or whether they are still alive.

They are among the bravest people I've ever met. These loving family members deal with the rituals and rigors of daily life while their hearts are heavy and their thoughts consumed with thoughts and concern for their captive loved ones. Perhaps theirs is the most difficult role of all: to maintain strength and optimism in existential uncertainty.

And yet they have not lost hope. Hope - tikvah in Hebrew - the driving force of the Jewish people is displayed with fervor by these amazing family members. They who are meeting with people around the world to bring the plight of these kidnapped men to the international attention it has not yet attained. They are undeterred in their mission.

We must rally to their side. We must help these understandably distraught people - theirs is a cause worthy of our attention. We must add our voices to their demands for justice. There is strength in numbers, and we should join together to demand the attention of those who can help pressure the kidnappers.

Is there any worse situation for a mother than dealing with her child's disappearance?

But mothers we are strong. We are persistent. We are caring. We are driven to ensure the safety and security and prosperity of our children. These men are fathers, sons, and brothers. It is our responsibility to act on their behalf and the other missing Israeli soldiers.

In the spirit of Mother's Day, we must unite and stand together in this unifying, and heart rending, cause.

I hope you will join B'nai B'rith International in our effort to inform the world about this intolerable injustice. Please support the humanitarian demand that those terrorists holding these Israeli sons return them safely to their waiting families.

Please contact His Excellency Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations, New York, NY 10017 and let your voice be heard.

Thank you for caring, and Happy Mother's Day.

Phyllis G. Heideman is active in Jewish communal affairs and chairwoman of the B'nai B'rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum in Washington, D.C.

B'nai B'rith Department of Communications
1640 Rhode Island Ave., NW * Washington, DC 20036-3278
202-857-6698 *

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