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August 17, 1999

HEADLINE: A Mother's Search for her Son

BYLINE: Amir Rappaport

In an attempt to locate her missing son, IDF soldier Guy Hever, Rina Hever has met with Abu Ala, Jibril Rajub and Saeb Ariqat; with Miguel Moratinos, President of the European Union, with German mediator Brent Schmidtbauer and with diplomats in Paris and Bonn who remain nameless. Even the late King of Morocco tried to lend his help. "As a mother, I still dream of Guy stepping through the door out of nowhere."

Last Saturday, in the early morning hours, Rina Hever stepped into her car and drove away from her Kochav Yair home and headed for Jerusalem. She made her way to the eastern part of the city, looking for the American Colony hotel, where senior Palestinian Authority officials often stay. Abu Ala, Speaker of the Palestinian Parliament, was already waiting for her in the elegant hotel lobby, greeting her with a warm smile. Abu Ala had agreed to meet Hever as part of her desperate and relentless attempts to find some kind of a lead that might help solve the mystery of the disappearance of her son, Guy. The meeting with the Palestinian official was part of a hitherto secretive diplomatic campaign which Hever has been pursuing in recent months in an attempt to jumpstart the deadlocked investigation.

Exactly two years have passed since the day Guy Hever marched, armed with his "Galil" assault rifle, towards the eastern fence of the Artillery Corps camp, at the heart of the Golan Heights, where he was stationed. No one has heard from Guy since that day; all traces of him were lost. Guy did not own a cellular phone and had no money or credit card on him. As far as the IDF is concerned, his disappearance is unprecedented. Never has a soldier been missing for so long during peace time. Since August 17th 1997, the day he was last seen, IDF and Israeli Police investigators have examined dozens of scenarios trying to ascertain his whereabouts, but have not reached any significant conclusion. Hever was a computer freak and since he had disappeared IDF investigators have disassembled his PC several times in search of a clue. Wadis and cliffs in the Golan Heights were combed incessantly, using dogs and choppers; private investigators hired by the family have even searched for Guy in Yeshivas (religious seminaries), in the off chance that he had decided to turn ultra orthodox. All to no avail. Statements by people who claimed that they had seen Hever after August 17th were also looked into. His hometown and army friends were questioned, in some cases using hypnosis. A television program investigating unsolved mysteries and crimes asked for the public's help, but the fifty-four viewer phone calls did not bring about the desired breakthrough. A senior military official stated that he did not remember a mystery such as the Guy Hever one. Once in a while the Hever case is brought to the attention of IDF officials, who are not able to shed new light on the mystery. Having no other choice, and feeling that she is the only one who would pursue the matter with endless devotion, Rina Hever took on the mission of finding her son. Before Guy disappeared, Rina had helped run the clinic of her husband Eitan, a psychiatrist. Today she is heading the search "war room" that had been set up in the couple's home. Her main task, besides the relentless attempts to find new leads and clues, is an ongoing effort to keep the IDF and the State of Israel from forgetting the open case. Hever is trying to meet with as many security personnel and influential diplomats as possible, in the hopes that they will help her find her lost son. Although she feels she is barely up for the task emotionally, Rina believes that if she does not do it - no one else will. The idea of conducting a long series of diplomatic meetings, assisted by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, was conceived after examining two possible explanations for Hever's disappearance: the first - that he had crossed the Syrian border close to his Golan Heights base, and the second - that he had been abducted by a Palestinian organization. Although no information has been received so far that would corroborate the second option, it is important to note that in another missing soldier case, the case of the late Sharon Edry, searchers had no lead whatsoever until Edry's body was recovered, nine months after his disappearance, following the exposure of the Hamas group that had carried out the terrorist attack in the Apropo restaurant in Tel-Aviv.

The IDF and Israeli Police have examined the possibility that Hever had crossed the border to Syria. They have questioned, among others, a Zimbabwean ornithologist who had arrived in the Golan Heights to watch birds. He said that on the day Hever disappeared he noticed an IDF soldier walking toward the Syrian border. However, IDF operations logs did not indicate any unusual movements along the border that day. This fact has not kept Rina Hever from pursuing the Syrian option. A few weeks ago, at her request, she toured the area of the Israeli-Syrian border with the IDF Commander in the Golan Heights in order to get a closer look. At the same time she is personally trying to convey a message, in any way possible, to the Syrian authorities, in an attempt to find out whether they have any information regarding her son. Dr. Itamar Rabinovich, former Israeli ambassador to the US, who has been leading the contacts with Syria, maintains close contacts with Hever and assists her as much as possible. The Israeli Foreign Ministry has also pulled its weight and arranged trips to Paris and Bonn where Hever was to contact Syrian officials. During those trips Hever met, six months ago, with six diplomats whose identity cannot be revealed at this stage. Hassan, late king of Morocco, also tried to assist in contacting Syrian officials, at the request of Interior Minister Natan Sharansky. The Israeli Foreign Ministry has also arranged a meeting between Rina Hever and Miguel Moratinos, president of the European Union, which took place in Jerusalem. At the same time, the search on the Palestinian track continues. The recent meeting between Hever and Abu Ala followed a series of meetings in which the mother tried to look into the "Palestinian option." Prior to this meeting, Hever had secretly met with the head of the Palestinian General Security Service in the West Bank, Jibril Rajub, in a Tel-Aviv apartment. She has also met with Dr. Saeb Ariqat, the PA Minister for Municipal Affairs, in Jericho and with Rashid Abu-Shabaq, deputy to Muhammed Dakhlan, head of the Palestinian Security Services, in his Gaza offices. Hever's list of meetings also includes dozens of meetings with Israeli officials, including former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who asked Ya'akov Peri - former head of the Israel Security Agency who had been empowered by the government to handle the subject of IDF POWs and MIAs - to handle the case of Guy Hever; Arab MKs Azmi Bshara and Ahmed Tibi; IDF Director of Military Intelligence, Amos Malka; Arieh Shumer, Director of the President's Bureau; former Defense Minister, Yitzchak Mordechai; Avraham Burg, Speaker of the Knesset. Hever has met with IDF Chief of the General Staff, Shaul Mofaz, at his home. Recently she met Prime Minister Barak who promised to raise the issue of the possibility of Guy being held in Syria, during the peace talks with Syria. Last week she attended the wedding of the son of another Kochav Yair resident, Dany Yatom, head of the political-security staff in the Prime Minister's office. At the wedding she met with Brent Schmidtbauer, the German mediator who in the past tried to lend his assistance in the efforts to locate the whereabouts of Ron Arad.

Life at the Hever family home is standing still. The twins, Or and Shir, now 14, do not speak of their older brother, whose photographs fill the living room. Rina Hever harbors serious grievances against the commanders of the IDF main unit for finding MIAs, who she claims treated her and her family with disregard. "Some IDF senior officials still treat me as if I were a lunatic," she says. The Chief of the General Staff, however, shows outstanding warmth and I can see in his eyes that he is genuinely distressed by what we are going through." Hever commends those who treat the mission of helping her find her son as a "personal project." Among those is David Dadon, who is in charge of the Syrian and Lebanese desk at the Israeli Foreign Ministry and accompanies her in her meetings, even on Saturdays or late at night; H., a former ISA top official with a long and successful history of locating MIAs, assists on a voluntary basis; Advocate Shimon Mizrahi, known for his role as the eternal chairman of the Maccabi Tel-Aviv basketball team, a reservist in the IDF Investigating Military Police, was appointed by the Defense Minister to voluntarily coordinate the contacts between the Hever family and the IDF. Hever maintained regular contact with a couple from central Israel who had prayed for Guy's safety, but died last month, one after the other. Rafi Kikos, who had led the search for his daughter, the late Henit, is offering tips and advice. All the clandestine contacts you have had so far have actually brought about a certain progress in the investigation. Rina Hever: "no breakthrough has been achieved so far, and no information has been received, neither from the Palestinians nor the Syrians, absolutely nothing." Discouraging, isn't it?

"Before each meeting I feel hopeful that maybe I would finally be able to further the investigation somewhat, and that is why I go on." Do you have any new idea of your own that might help further the investigation?

"I have requested that a reward be offered in the Arab press for anyone who would provide information that would lead to a breakthrough, but the IDF turned me down. Had it been financially possible, we would have offered the reward ourselves." Why are you the one leading the search rather than your husband?

"Eitan, my husband, helps me, but if he were to devote himself to the matter as I do, he would not be able to run his clinic. That is why I am the one leading the search." As a mother, what are your gut feelings?

"As time goes by it is becoming clear that the possibility initially raised by the IDF, that Guy took his own life, is unreasonable. When someone commits suicide they cannot make themselves or their weapon disappear, and experience shows us that eventually the body is always found. IDF soldier Leonid Rosenkovitch who took his own life was eventually found by a shepherd, even though he had shot himself to death in a deserted area in the Negev. In Guy's case nothing has been found, absolutely nothing, even though we have left no stone unturned in the Golan Heights." "As a mother, I still dream and hope that Guy would suddenly open the door and come home. My gut feelings are that he might be held somewhere by some hostile element, waiting for us to come to his rescue."

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