Rabbis Felt Emotional Difficulty in Identifying Remains

Rabbis say emotional toll, more than procedure, made identifying abducted troops' bodies especially difficult.

Identifying the remains of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev was not a difficult task, contrary to reports in the media, said Lt. Colonel (res.) Yaakov Roja. Since the Yom Kippur War, Rabbi Roja has been involved in identifying the remains of fallen Israel Defense Forces soldiers and is considered an expert.

"We received the remains very late due to a delay at the crossing point because the bomb squad needed to check the coffins for Hezbollah booby traps," he said.

"In the end we completed the identification and confirmed the identities. We knew beyond any doubt which body belongs to whom. The difficulty was more emotional than it was scientific," Rabbi Roja said.

The former chief rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces, Brigadier General (res.) Israel Weiss, Thursday accused Hezbollah of reaching a new low in the way it handled the remains of the two soldiers. "We know the enemy, but this time the Hezbollah reached a new low respecting the dead," he said.

Although he had not been involved in the process of identifying the remains of the two reservists, he told Haaretz he had been told the work of the army's medical and rabbinate officials involved in the identification was significantly more difficult than on previous occasions.

Weiss also stressed the identification had been completed beyond any doubt.

The current IDF chief rabbi, Brigadier General Avichai Ronsky, told reporters Wednesday that identifying remains "was a difficult and complex process."

A dozen forensic experts were involved in identifying the two soldiers, and Roja said "we felt the full brunt of the mission, as if an entire nation was looking over our shoulder and waiting to see what will happen. There was a load of two years on our shoulders."

Roja stressed the importance of identification beyond all doubt because of its significance regarding Karnit Goldwasser, who before was considered an aguna, or "chained woman," since her husband's fate was not determined, who now had the status of a widow.