Karnit Goldwasser will be at Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy to talk about her new book about dealing with the murder of her husband, an IDF soldier.
Karnit Goldwasser knows exactly how July 12, 2006, was supposed to go. It should have been a typical day, with her graduate school classes, walking her dog and welcoming her husband Udi home from the Army.
Instead, as attendees at an Oct. 3 event at Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy sponsored by PhilyIsrael and the Israeli-American Council will discover, it was the first day of a two-year odyssey to discover just what happened to her husband of 10 months.
Udi, 31, was on his last day of mandatory annual reserve duty and was on routine patrol near the Lebanese border when he and fellow soldier Eldad Regev were captured by Hezbollah during an ambush. The incident sparked Israel’s second Lebanon war that lasted 33 days.
As Goldwasser will discuss at Barrack, and as she has written about in her book, Finding the Way Back to You, she struggled for two years to find out if her husband was dead or alive, contacting the government every day looking for answers. Then, on July 16, 2008, the mutilated bodies of Goldwasser and Regev were returned to Israel in part of a prisoner exchange for five Lebanese militants held by Israel as well as the bodies of 199 militants captured in Lebanon or Israel.
“My biggest fear was him being returned dead,” Goldwasser said. “I never gave up hope. We didn’t have the privilege to give up hope. I wanted to feel I did everything for him.”
She always tried to be optimistic, but there were times when she thought he would not come home.
“I didn’t publish the story for therapy,” she said. “I published the book because there is a story of someone who was a soldier. Unfortunately, he came into the book of history.”
The book gives the reader the sense of things she did during those two years, including sneaking into a 2007 press conference at the United Nations in New York City, where former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was speaking.
“I knew I had to say something to him,” she said. “I asked him how come he’s not letting the Red Cross help the soldiers.” She believed that since Iran was supplying and supporting Hezbollah,
Ahmadinejad could use his influence on her husband’s behalf.
Goldwasser, 39, mourned her husband’s loss for about a month, but found that with her family and friends trying to comfort her, she couldn’t do so in the way she needed. She needed space and in 2008, went biking in Utah. The trip was cathartic and cleared her mind.
Although she had never written before, she began to write during her time there, and returned to Israel with 50 pages of material about who and what she had lost. She eventually found her editor, Sachar Alterman, in Israel, who said in order for her to successfully publish the book, he needed to know why it was important for people to know about Udi.
“Why do you think there’s a story?” she remembers asking him. “Why will people go for the book when everyone knows how it ends?”
After meeting with Alterman a few times, he convinced her to do it. She finished the book in three years, buoyed in part by Udi’s father, Shlomo, who urged her to tell his son’s story.
“I knew that I had to write it because there were no other options,” she said.
While she and Udi were only married less than a year, they knew each other for 10 years — since they were in high school together — growing closer as they got older. At the time of his death, they were both attending Technion-the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, where Udi was an environmental engineering master’s student and she was getting her master’s of science in civil and environmental engineering. Her father-in-law pushed her to finish her thesis and today, she is an environmental consultant in Israel.
“It’s something that you get used to,” she said. “It never gets easy.”