Israel on Thursday officially recognized a new military preparatory program named for a fallen IDF soldier whose remains have been held in the Gaza Strip by the Hamas terror group since 2014.
Its full name is the Preparatory Program for Leadership in the name of Lt. Hadar Goldin, and it will be run out of Kibbutz Sufa, a community next to the Strip where Hamas planned — and failed — to conduct a massive tunnel attack during the 2014 Gaza war, known by Israel as Operation Protective Edge.
Goldin’s father, Simcha, lauded the Defense Ministry’s decision to recognize the prepatory program, known in Hebrew as a mechina.
“The ‘Hadar mechina’ is an expression of the country’s total commitment to not leaving behind soldiers and to bring them back — dead or alive — from the battlefield,” he said on Thursday.
The program has been running throughout the year, but was not officially recognized by the Defense Ministry until Thursday.
According to the ministry, the program is open to Israelis from a variety of backgrounds, “religious and secular, at-risk youth and new immigrants.”
It is one of 56 such pre-army programs that operate throughout the country and are designed to help post-high school teenagers better prepare for their military service.
According to the ministry, the program organizers decided to name the mechina after Goldin in recognition of his service during the 2014 war and his personal sacrifice.
The program also adopted the lieutenant’s personal motto: “With courage and humility.”
On August 1, 2014, the Givati Brigade’s reconnaissance unit came under attack in the Gaza city of Rafah by a group of Hamas fighters who had emerged from a nearby tunnel. Three Israeli soldiers, including Goldin, were killed in the exchange and the young lieutenant’s body was smuggled into the tunnel.
In an effort to foil what the army feared at the time was the kidnapping of a live soldier, it launched a large-scale assault, killing dozens of Palestinians in what would later become known as “Black Friday.”
In the three and a half years since then, Israel has reportedly been in back-channel talks with Hamas to retrieve the remains of Goldin and another IDF soldier killed in the war, Oron Shaul, along with two live Israeli citizens, Avraham Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who entered the Palestinian enclave apparently due to mental illness.
Those negotiations have yet to yield results.
The families of Goldin and Shaul have become, at times, vocal critics of the government for its failure to recover their sons’ remains.
Earlier this month, the Goldin family successfully petitioned the High Court of Justice to require the government to formally ban all members of the Hamas terror organization and their first-degree relatives from making humanitarian visits to Israel.
In July 2016, the Shaul family led a protest to block the entrance of goods from Turkey into the Gaza Strip, arguing that aid for the coastal enclave should be contingent upon the release of captives.