Copyright 2005 The Jerusalem Post
HEADLINE: 'We've a right to get our son back'
BYLINE: MARGOT DUDKEVITCH
Twenty-three years of searching for his son have taken a toll on Yona Baumel's health, but the hope that one day soon Zachary will return home still drives him.
"We have a right to get our son back and we have a right to know," Baumel told The Jerusalem Post. Ever since the fateful day in 1982 when the Baumels were informed that Zachary, Zvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz went missing in the battle of Sultan Yakoub, no stone has been left unturned in their attempt to learn his fate. The Baumels are now following new leads that their son is alive, in poor health and is being held captive in Syria.
Opting for caution so as not to jeopardize the situation, Baumel insisted that the new information being relayed to them was credible.
"We are working on different aspects with people accepted by the Syrian government. They are not European or from the Middle East," he said.
They hope to receive confirmation in a matter of weeks. The next step, he said, would be to embark on negotiations to secure his son's return.
Having suffered numerous setbacks and disappointments over the years, the government's recent decision to offer a $10 million reward for news of IAF navigator Ron Arad left the families of the three MIAs feeling more isolated then ever, he said.
"It was unheard of and immoral of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to give $10 million to Arad and not a penny toward our sons," Baumel said. "When did he change from being a national hero to a national coward?"
While the families of the three missing soldiers were assured that money would be made available for them, not one agora has been posted as a reward, Baumel said.
"I do not want anything from the government," he added. "Up until now, all the money we used was either our own personal finances or money our friends and those of Zak gave us. That gives us the independence to tell the government to shove it because they are not doing the right thing by our boys."
Recently Baumel was asked to meet with Sharon, and refused. "I figured that nothing positive would come out of such a meeting. Physically I do not need the aggravation. I would do myself harm and then what good would that do," he said.
Baumel harshly criticized other government officials and members of the IDF General Staff who failed to demand that a similar sum be posted as a reward for information on their sons.
"How can they sit back idly, without raising their voices. How can they abide such discrimination between the army's ground forces and the air force? Not one general dared to speak out and say that such a thing should not have happened."
The last time the families met with Shaul Mofaz, now the defense minister, was when he had just stepped down as chief of General Staff three years ago, Baumel said. "He called the families in as a sort of farewell gesture. He devoted a minimum amount of time to the families, then spent the rest of the time talking about his own political agenda and beliefs."
When Moshe Ya'alon was chief of General Staff , the families met with him once or twice. "I was really hurt by the army," Baumel said. "I never asked to meet with the head of intelligence. I have had enough of the army; I feel they always worked against us, even though there were some good people who tried to help us."
While the IDF Spokesman's Office refused to respond to a number of questions, it did agree to issuing a general comment regarding the search for the MIAs.
"The State of Israel, the security establishment and the IDF are obligated to continue efforts to secure the return of Israel's MIAs: those missing in Sultan Yakoub - Zachary Baumel, Yehuda Katz and Zvi Feldman - IAF navigator Ron Arad and the soldier Guy Hever. Over the years large quantities of information received has been thoroughly examined by the security establishment and the army."
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