Jewish National Fund - We Only Have ONE ISRAEL

A Long Road Home

by Marlene E. Post,
Hadassah President

There is the most unlikely sign posted along the Pacific Coast Highway in California. It doesn't guide the motorist to drive at any certain speed or in any particular direction. In fact, it has nothing to do with driving or direction at all. An ingenious advocacy tool, it simply reads: "Ron Arad - IDF," asking us to remember an Israeli who has been Missing-In-Action (MIA) since 1986.

Such public awareness about the loss of one individual's personal freedom is especially relevant during this season. Each year as Passover nears and we discuss those still in chains around the world, I always recall the 1991 announcement that "the last Western hostage is Lebanon" was freed. While the public celebrated Terry Anderson's release after six years in captivity, I sat sadly remembering all the loved ones of the four Israelis who became MIA in Lebanon before and after Anderson and still have not come home.

Miriam and Yona Baumel have not seen their son Zachary in nearly 17 years. A born and bred American raised in Brooklyn, New York, Zachary Baumel was a soldier in the Israeli armed forces and was captured in Lebanon three years before Anderson. Baumel and his Israeli comrades, Tzvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz, disappeared during a 1982 tank battle with a Syrian Army unit in Syrian-controlled Lebanon. Four years later, Israeli airforce navigator Captain Ron Arad was captured by Amal, a Shiite malitia group in Lebanon, when his plane was downed. All were believed to have been taken hostage.

More than sixteen years after the first soldier was captured, the whereabouts, health, and status of all the Israeli Missing-In-Action servicemen still remain shrouded in mystery. While the missing soldiers suffer, their loved ones are also tortured as the years drag on without closure.

This year on Passover as we once again bring the Exodus story of liberation to life, our mission is two-fold: we must remember the Israeli MIAs among out brothers and sisters across the world who still linger in captivity; and we must advocate loudly and persistently on their behalf until this tragic chapter comes to a satisfactory end.

To help keep their plight in the fore, the American Zionist Movement published a special Passover Hagaddah supplement adding these four sons - Arad, Baumel, Feldman, and Katz - to the traditional readings on the Passover theme of freedom. This year, Hadassah invites families everywhere to include these questions at their Passover seders:

Why are these sons different from all other sons?

These four sons were taken prisoner in Lebanon while bravely fighting for the safety and security of the State of Israel and her people.

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