Copyright 2005 The Jerusalem Post
HEADLINE: For the Feldmans, the strain of a vain quest
BYLINE: MATTHEW GUTMAN
After 23 years issuing the same statements about her son Zvi, missing along with Zachary Baumel and Yehuda Katz since the 1982 Sultan Yakoub battle in Lebanon, Pnina Feldman sighs into her telephone receiver that she is "exhausted. I can't do it anymore."
She talks on. Her 70 year-old voice warbles as she recalls, for the umpteenth time, what a "wonderful son my Zvi was," that he gave up part of his salary to set up a pension fund for his father, that he loved his mother.
Feldman was still a bachelor when captured by the Syrians, in that horrible summer. In late December he will be 48, Pnina muses. Her husband is now 84, and hacks a dry rattle somewhere within earshot of the phone.
There was a time when the Feldmans traipsed around the world, trying to find some - any - information about their son. In the mid-1990s, they visited pope John Paul II, and her husband begged him in Polish to find a solution for "Zvi and the boys." When they returned to Israel, Avraham, her husband, began exhibiting the first signs of Alzheimer's.
The burdens of a fruitless 23-year-long quest for information have yielded little more than fatigue and emotional depletion. "Sometimes I go to sleep praying that I don't wake up in the morning, there is too much weight on me," she says.
A female officer from the IDF's Casualties Department visited Wednesday to tell Pnina Feldman that Zvi is dead, "but they can't prove it with DNA. I just need to know. I need for the uncertainty to end." Pnina wondered if the officer had been born when Zvi disappeared.
The families of the Sultan Yakoub boys, as Feldman, Katz, and Baumel are known, remain angered that the government never did more to repatriate their sons. But over the years, financial woes from rendezvous with potential sources throughout Europe and ailing health have compounded Pnina's despair.
Finally, she tires of conversation and ends by reciting a poem Zvi jotted in his notebook before he disappeared. "I am here, yes it is me. The last of the last. Much time has passed since, lots more than a few years, I never felt alone, surely not, [it's] just a pity we are so many, it's a pity all the good ones were taken."
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