Yona and Miriam Baumel, 2003
Yona and Miriam Baumel, 2003 Israel news photo: Flash 90

Miriam Baumel, mother of missing IDF soldier Zecharia Baumel, spoke to Arutz Sheva's Hebrew news service following reports in the Israeli media that bodies were found in Sultan Yaakub, where Zecharia and two others went missing 28 years ago. The bodies were later revealed to be those of Syrian soldiers who fell in combat at the same spot.

Miriam said she had not been excited by the media rumors that her son's remains may have been found. “There's very little information,” she said. “I understand that the bodies they found are not Israeli, so I don't understand what the fuss is about.”

'The years don't make it easier'

The Baumel family continues to search for Zecharia and agonize over his fate, 28 years after he went missing during the first Lebanon War. “Everyone who has children knows that this is a human, humanitarian issue,” Miriam said, “When a child doesn't come home his parents look for him, and the passing years don't make it any easier. The worry hasn't faded in all these years.”

Zacharia Baumel went missing during the battle of Sultan Yaakub in June 1982, just hours before a ceasefire was declared. He was 21.

His fellow soldiers Ariel Lieberman, Hezi Shai, Zohar Lipschitz, Tzvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz went missing as well. Lieberman and Shai were later discovered to have been taken prisoner; they were returned to Israel in a 1985 prisoner exchange. The body of Zohar Lipschitz was returned a year later.

There have been many conflicting reports over the fate of the missing soldiers. Syrian authorities initially claimed to have the bodies of four Israeli soldiers killed in battle, but senior Syrian sources later indicated that Baumel, Feldman and Katz were still alive.

The Baumels have spent decades traveling the world and speaking to intelligence personnel, attempting to find their son. Yona Baumel, Miriam's husband and Zecharia's father, became a symbol of the grassroots efforts to discover the fate of Israel's MIA soldiers.

Last year Yona Baumel passed away at the age of 81. The Baumel family will hold a memorial ceremony for him in the Har Hamenuchot cemetery in Jerusalem on the day after Shavuot.

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