Father grieves again as girl's killer freed in Gilad Shalit swap

Noam Shalit shakes hands with Zeev Rapp
REPORTING FROM JERUSALEM -- Helena Rapp was 15 when she was stabbed to death on her way to school by a Palestinian youth.

Now, 19 years later, with the swap of prisoners Tuesday involving Gilad Shalit, her family says they are reliving her death. Helena's killer is being released from an Israeli prison with hundreds of other Palestinians in return for captured Israeli soldier Shalit.

"Recent days have taken me 20 years back, to the day of my daughter's murder," said her father, Zeev Rapp, who is now a 66-year-old grandfather. "Three prime ministers promised me my daughter's killer would never be released -- but he was released today, a despicable murderer who killed a 15-year-old girl and tore her heart out."

Photo gallery: Gilad Shalit release

Zeev Rapp never fully recovered, suffering repeated heart attacks that forced him into early retirement. He dedicated years to working with the families of terror victims until that too became too much.

Like many Israelis, he spent much of the morning Tuesday watching the start of the Israeli-Palestinian prisoner exchange unfold on television. Under the deal reached between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, 1,027 Palestinians will be freed in exchange for Shalit, who was captured in a cross-border raid near the Gaza Strip in 2006.

"It was hard for me to bear the sight of ... the release of murderers being celebrated," Rapp said. He feels the country has gone "morally bankrupt, betraying me, my wife and children, a terrible betrayal." 

He is considering surrendering his Israeli identification card and citizenship.

"My heart goes out to Gilad Shalit and his family, really, it does," he said. "But releasing Shalit and releasing murderers are two separate issues, two lines that should not meet."

Rapp is not the only Israeli who is upset about the exchange. On Monday, he attended a Supreme Court hearing to consider several petitions by victims' groups seeking to block the deal. He knew the petitions would be rejected.

"I went," he said, "for the dead, my daughter and others, so I could tell my daughter I had done everything to prevent this from happening."

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--  Batsheva Sobelman

Photo: Noam Shalit, right, father of freed Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, shakes hands with Zeev Rapp at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on Monday. Credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters

 
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