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Missing Israeli Soldiers

The sword is worse than death, famine is harder than the sword, captivity is worst of all... (Talmud, Bava Batra 8b)

Since the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, over four hundred Israeli soldiers have been declared "Missing in Action" (MIA). Only four of these cases, are officially listed as "soldiers missing but presumed to be alive." Three of the soldiers, Zachary Baumel, Tzvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz were captured in 1982. The fourth, Ron Arad, was captured in 1986. Over the years there has been a steady flow of information indicating that at least some of these MIAs may be alive and are being held under Syrian and Iranian control. Despite the diplomatic and military efforts of several Israeli governments, almost no progress has been made in determining the fate of the missing men.

Tzvi Feldman
June 11, 1982

Zachary Baumel
June 11, 1982

Yehuda Katz
June 11, 1982

Ron Arad
Oct. 16, 1986

The following prayer is recited in synagogues all over Israel:

He who blessed our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Yaacov, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, David and Solomon, may He bless, preserve and protect the captive and missing soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces including:

Yekutiel Yehuda Nachman ben Sarah (Katz)
Zecharia Shlomo ben Miriam (Baumel)
Zvi ben Penina (Feldman)
Ron ben Batya (Arad)

May He Rescue them from captivity and speedily restore them in peace, in the merit of the prayers of this holy assemblage who pray for them. May the Holy One, Blessed be He, show them mercy, increase their strength, remove their pain and send them a recovery of body and recovery of spirit, may He return them to the bossom of their families, swiftly and soon. Now let us respond: Amen.

June 11, 1982: The Battle of Sultan Yakoub

Five Israeli soldiers went missing in a battle with Syrian forces near the Lebanese village of Sultan Yaqub. Several years later, two of the captured soldiers were returned to Israel in prisoner exchanges with Syria. Three soldiers, Zachary Baumel, Yehuda Katz, and Tzvi Feldman, are still missing.

Several hours after the battle a reporter for Time Magazine reported that three Israeli soldiers were being publicly paraded in a procession of captured tanks through the streets of Damascus. Correspondents from AP, La Stampa and the Syrian media confirmed the report.

Since the battle, there have been many conflicting reports regarding the whereabouts and condition of the missing men. Over the years, Syrian officials have made many references to information in their possession regarding the MIAs, but have been unwilling to cooperate in efforts to return the missing soldiers to their families.

So, despite Israel's best efforts, Yehuda Katz and Tzvi Feldman, the children of Holocaust survivors, and Zachary Baumel (also an American citizen), remain unaccounted for despite ongoing reports (including the 1988 Amnesty International Report and the 1993 Amnesty International December Update) indicating that some of the missing soldiers are still alive and are being held under Syrian control.

October 16, 1986: MIA Ron Arad

Israeli air-force navigator Ron Arad was taken captive after his F-4 Phantom warplane went down over Lebanon. One of the jet's bombs exploded under the wing and sent it into a tailspin. Both Arad and the pilot parachuted safely to the ground.

The pilot was flown to safety under fire, holding on to the bottom of an Israeli helicopter in a spectacular rescue operation. Ron was taken captive by Amal, a Lebanese Shi'ite militia group lead by Nabih Berri, who later became the speaker of the Lebanese Paliament.

In 1987, Arad's family received several letters and a photo of Arad confirming that the missing navigator was alive and in Amal's hands. The ensuing negotiations between Israel and Amal broke off after Arad was "sold" to Iranian backed forces in Lebanon by Amal official Mustafa Dirani.

Arad is the only Israeli MIA who is married. His daughter Yuval was an infant at the time of his capture.

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