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The actual moment the Goldwasser and Regev families learned that the government had approved the prisoner swap was a total anti-climax in view of the past two years of their lives. Had it not been for the drama last week surrounding the declaration of the hostages as dead, this moment might have been one of grace - followed by longed-for relief. Then maybe Miki and Shlomo and Karnit Goldwasser, Zvi Regev and his sons, all champions of self-restraint, would permit themselves at long last to express joy.

Was this not what they had requested - for the expected deal to get started? Did they not wish with all their might to advance the negotiations and bring the boys home? But, after last week, after that ballyhooed discussion in the office of the chief military rabbi, it seems the deed can not be undone. The words concerning the fate of Udi and Eldad have been spoken. The idea that possibly, and probably, they are not alive, hangs in the air. And no, they are not the sort who believe in miracles.

The families spent an exhausting day waiting outside the Prime Minister's Office, completely in the dark, swinging between despair and hope, but concealing their emotions. In the copies of the minutes from the cabinet discussion that was distributed to reporters at noon and given to Karnit Goldwasser to read, the talk was explicitly of the "dead."

What does that indicate about the prime minister's decision?

Karnit pauses over the word, reads it with emphasis; takes issue with the wording in her gentle, restrained fashion. Later on the missing soldier's mother, Miki Goldwasser, brings her more extroverted style to bear: "Why do they use the word 'dead'? How do they know?" she asks. "I am not willing to hear that word until I see definitive proof from the [International] Red Cross, photos. Something real. It angers me that these reports come from [Mossad head Meir] Dagan, who is relying on a source he deems credible. That's what he's relying on? Why does he not believe the medical report that ruled they are alive?

Miki and Karnit Goldwasser are up in arms over the fact that no one from the PMO or some other official entity bothered to update them on what was happening in the discussion; that news, like the minutes from the cabinet meeting, came from reporters. "We are evidently like everyone else," Karnit said with a slight note of bitterness, "only it just so happens that our Udi was kidnapped."

"Why can't I be present at the cabinet discussion? After all, we are talking about my son," Miki Goldwasser wondered aloud. "I tried to speak with the prime minister, but he refused to meet me. I don't understand why."

Little by little details leaked from the meeting. What was said, who voted in favor, who against. She carefully elicited details from reporters. Apparently the prime minister was in favor. "It's another stage in the obstacle course. I can't say it delights me, until it's all over," she said cautiously.

Around 3 P.M. the cell phones started ringing with news already broadcast on the radio and the Internet. The deal was approved. But Miki Goldwasser kept a strict poker face. "Until the prime minister or someone on his behalf informs me officially, I don't believe in rumors," she said. An entire hour would go by before she was invited inside.

Only after meeting with the prime minister later did these models of self-control let go. No tears, heaven forfend. That's not for them. Outside the security checkpoint at the entrance to the PMO, Zvi Regev and Miki Goldwasser joined in a comforting embrace, the kind shared by the parents of kidnapped sons who may not be among the living.