Ron Arad in captivity
Ron Arad in captivity Flash 90

Israeli Air Force pilot Lt. Col. Ron Arad was abducted by terrorists in Lebanon back in 1986; now, 28 years later, his wife Tami opened up and recounted the many hardships suffered on the long road without her husband.

Speaking to Yedioth Aharonoth, Tami noted that she was once informed that Ron died. "It was after seven years. Information that Ron died arrived, but it was ruled out after a week. The source that brought the information took it back and denied it."

"That week I sat a sort of shiva (ritual seven day mourning period) in deep darkness - crying and mourning and self examination," said Tami. "When the week passed and they returned Ron to life without getting a sign of life from him, I had trouble connecting to the optimism. My confidence in the information I received was irreversibly shaken."

Arad and co-pilot Yishai Aviram were on a mission to attack Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) terrorist targets near Sidon, Lebanon on October 16, 1986, when a bomb their aircraft had dropped exploded too early, forcing both men to eject the aircraft. Aviram was rescued hours later, but Arad was reportedly captured by the Lebanese rebel group Amal. 

Photos and letters from Arad were received in 1987 proving he was still alive, but negotiations to secure his release failed and reliable data has yet to be received. Arad was announced dead in 2008 after Israel received a report from the Hezbollah terror group, which claimed Arad died two years after his capture.

Now, Arad's daughter Yuval who was one-year-and-three-months old when her father was captured is 29-and-a-half - she is older than her father was when he was captured.

"I try not to speak with her about that," said Tami. "I think it did come up sometime, but not on her actual birthday. What can I tell her, 'Yuvali, you're older than your father?' She knows. She grew up without that father, she waited for him many many years."

"But Yuval is here and Yuval is alive and Yuval is completely okay. It's really important to me that this won't be the unfortunate family and miserable Yuval who was left without a father. There are a lot of kids in the state of Israel who grew up without a dad, and I'm not the only one left alone," said Tami.

Tami continued "I want to pass the weight from us to Ron. We were left behind and went through things that weren't easy, but we continue to live our lives. And he's there alone, think of him."

"We got the diary he wrote afterwards. We could see his fear, his distress, his longings, and his understanding that he very well might not return. The one who paid the price is Ron. Only Ron. In a few more years they won't even remember Ron. They won't even know who Ron Arad is," concluded Tami.

In one diary entry, Ron wrote to Tami and Yuval saying he is "trying to forget you, because all memories of you choke me. But know that I love you and you are the only reason I am resisting thoughts of the worst possible things that could happen to me. I will return. But when – a year? Two years? When I do, I will never, ever leave you again, even if I have to stop flying. We will have a nice, warm home like we never had before."

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 Hezbollah 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 Hezbollah to destroy Israel.

Dirani later filed a lawsuit against Israel for damages he claimed he suffered during his imprisonment. In 2011, the High Court ruled in his favor and allowed him to sue Israel for 6 million shekels in damages.

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