“Please do your best to get me out of here, because Lebanon is no place to be, and I really want to see you all — no one should have to remain in captivity when there are other alternatives… Yom Kippur is approaching and I will be praying together with you…. Let’s hope that He will help the leaders . make the right choices. But you can also help.” (Ron Arad in a letter to his wife, Rosh Hashana 1987)
Throughout the fifty odd years of Israel’s existence, there is perhaps no other name that has become so synonymous with the Israeli MIA cause as Israeli Air-Force Lieutenant Colonel Ron Arad. There are also those who have speculated that there may be no other person in recent history who has been sought so assiduosly by so many people in so many different places.
Ron Arad was born on May 5, 1958 in Israel. He is the son of Batya and the late Dov Arad, and is the oldest of their three sons. Arad, an air-force navigator in an F-4 Phantom jet, had just completed his first year of chemical engineering at The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa when he was called up for reserve duty. On October 6, 1986 Arad was captured by members of the Amal Shi’ite militia after bailing out of his crippled warplane over the Lebanese city of Sidon.
About a year after his capture, Israel received photographs and letters from Arad’s captors, and Arad’s case quickly attracted the attention of the international community. Ron’s wife Tami, was very reluctantly forced into the public eye as was her infant daughter Yuval and other members of the Arad family. Articulate and determined, she became an international figure, meeting with heads of state, the media, and community officials, becoming the very embodiment of her husband’s plight.
When negotiations for Arad’s release collapsed in 1988, Arad was “sold” by Amal security chief Mustafa Dirani to Iranian backed forces in Lebanon. Since that time there has been a great deal of contradictory information regarding his fate and whereabouts. Israeli intelligence sources have maintained that Arad is being held in Iran or Lebanon by Iranian backed forces. The Iranians have never publicly admitted to holding Arad or to having any information regarding his condition or location. Over the years many foreign governments have pressured Iran on the matter. Particularly the German government has continually attempted to utilize its close relationship with Iran to broker deals for Arad’s release, but without success to date.
Arad’s case continues to haunt the Israeli public. Songs, stickers, birthday celebrations, and events marking the day of his capture have become part and parcel of Israeli popular culture. But for his family, as each day of captivity is counted and added to the thousands that precede it, the years have grown progressively and unbearably long. Yuval Arad, who never has had an opportunity to speak to her father, is now a teenager. Like her mother Tami, she continues to wait to move into the house in Givat Elah that her father had started building before his capture. The house was completed in the summer of 1994. It will be inhabited only upon his return.