Sunday marks 25 years since the abduction and subsequent disappearance of IAF navigator Ron Arad, whose plane was shot down over Lebanon in 1986.
Arad’s pilot was rescued by Israeli forces, but he was captured and transferred from one terrorist group to another until his tracks were lost. Three letters from him were received in 1987, and the Israeli government negotiated for his release, but talks failed in 1988. Arad was apparently transferred to Iran, but this is not certain.
Arad was announced dead in 2008 after Israel received a report from the Hizbullah terror group, which claimed Arad died two years after his capture.
Arad’s wife, Tami, spoke in a ceremony held this past week to mark 25 years since the kidnapping. The ceremony took place before the news on the impending release of Gilad Shalit. Tami Arad has previously spoken out in favor of reaching a deal that would secure Shalit’s release.
“During the first year I could feel your presence,” Arad said during the ceremony, her words being quoted by Israel’s Channel 2 News on Saturday. “In the second year I could still hear your voice echoing and in the third year I could imagine you coming up the street, barefoot, in overalls, with a cigarette in your hand and your boots hanging over your shoulder.
“Today, the physical sign indicating that another year has passed is the smell of the first guavas, the heat waves and Yom Kippur with the silence it brings,” she said. “The hopes that you will return and open the door vanished years ago and the expectations shrank to a modest hope: just to know what happened to you.
“The leaders, Ron, did not heed your prayer, neither did G-d,” said Arad, adding, “I prayed, even vowed vows. My emotions said I should push in all directions, even in the direction of G-d. Like you, I wanted to believe that there’s someone to trust, that there’s some guidance from above, and that those who fill out G-d’s mission would be brave enough to make difficult decisions. Nobody really meant in those days to bring you back, and when they pulled themselves together there was no one to talk to. They missed the opportunity to bring you back home.”
In 1989 and 1994, Israel captured two leading Lebanese terrorists involved in Arad’s capture, as a means of gaining information on Arad. One of them was Mustafa Dirani, a Hizbullah terrorist who held Arad for several years.
Dirani and the other terrorist were released in 2004 as part of the exchange for Elchanan Tenenbaum and the bodies of three captured IDF soldiers. The moment he set foot back on Lebanese soil, Dirani announced that he was re-enlisting in Hizbullah to destroy Israel.
Dirani later filed a lawsuit against Israel for damages he claims he suffered during his imprisonment. In July, the High Court ruled in his favor and allowed him to sue Israel for 6 million shekels in damages.