Shalom Rotben, an Israeli who had been missing since May 2021 was unexpectedly located in a psychiatric hospital in Jordan and returned to Israel. Apparently, Rotben was admitted to the Jordanian hospital after being found wandering the streets in Amman, and once the doctors realized he spoke Hebrew, they enlisted the help of Arab-Israelis to communicate with him.
They successfully engaged in conversations with Rotben using pieces of paper, and through this, they discovered his mother's phone number and contacted her. The process of identifying Rotben took several days, and he has now returned to Israel.
Rotben was diagnosed with PTSD after a rocket strike from Gaza in 2012, hit a building in his hometown of Kiryat Malachi resulting in three fatalities. According to his family, rocket fire in the 2021 cycle of fighting with Gaza, reawakened the trauma in him, and since then he disappeared - even though days before that he had been in telephone contact only with his family.
In one of the pages (shown above), the Israelis conversed with Rotben, and one of them wrote his name and told him, "I'm from Israel, don't be afraid. We want to help you." Here it appears that Rotben replied, "Mom wants me to come home." At the beginning of the letter, he even wrote, "This is my mom," and added a drawing of a heart.
Sarah, Rotben's sister, told Ynet that "the missile strike on the building ruined his life. He saw everything, the dead and the injured, and knew them all. Today, a miracle happened to us. I'm excited, I just want to hug him. We didn't hear from him for two years. From that moment in 2012, he stopped talking, kept to his room, and didn't speak. He would disappear and come back, again and again. We had no sign of life from him in the past two years, and we didn't believe he was alive anymore. We went through a lot; my brother got married during that time, and all we did was be sad."
Camal Talaqat, a nursing student in Jordan, was the first to speak with Rotben. "The department manager asked me if I knew Hebrew, and I replied affirmatively. I entered Rotben's room, started talking to him in Hebrew, and wrote in a notebook where he came from, how he arrived there, and his phone number. After trying many times, he wrote to me and gave me his mother's number. I contacted her and informed her that her son was in Jordan. They sent me all his details and told me to contact the Israeli embassy. At first, he was afraid to speak Hebrew with me, but after we had a video call with his mother, he started talking to me. It was very emotional; I'm so proud and delighted. I brought him food and tried to calm him down."
K9 Dog Unit founder and director Mike (Yekutiel) Ben Yaakov said that it is still unclear how Rotben arrived in Jordan. "Even the Jordanian investigators tried to understand how he got there, but they couldn't," he said. "He is a young man with post-traumatic stress disorder, who was a teenager when his friends were killed in a rocket attack in Kiryat Malachi in 2012, and since then he has had many problems. He doesn't communicate completely, and somehow he made it into Jordan - he also doesn't know how to explain it, and it's not clear when."
According to Ben Yaakov, "24 days ago they found him lying on the side of the road in the Aman area, and they brought him to a psychiatric hospital. They looked for an interpreter, and then they discovered that he spoke Hebrew, so they brought a guy from Tayibe who is studying medicine there to speak with him. He was able to provide his mother's phone number, and the Arab-Israeli from Tayibe called his mother and contacted the K9 unit because he recognized the missing person notice."
Ben Yaakov reported that the unit was immediately organized and dispatched to Jordan, and he added that even recently there were searches for Rotben. "It was a surprise," he said. "Many had already given up hope, but not us. Our team arrived at the hospital in Jordan, and we managed to confirm that it was him, but we encountered a serious problem because they didn't want to release him. The Jordanian police and intelligence took an unexpected interest in the case and started investigating how he ended up there, and the situation became a bit stuck."
From that point, President Isaac Herzog entered the picture when he dealt with the matter directly in front of the Jordanian palace in order to expedite Rotben's return to his homeland before the holiday of Shavuot. "Rotben's mother is ill, and she also traveled to Jordan," Ben Yaakov recounted. "When his brother Yosef and his mother saw him yesterday, it was a touching reunion. What tears of joy they shed! They were certain they would never see him again. What can one expect after two years?"
"They always tell families not to give up hope," Ben Yaakov added. "We continue to search even when families despair. It's a very touching story that concluded with a complex operation to bring him back to the country."
The Foreign Ministry stated, "During the past few days, Consul Gali Yitzhak in Amman, in coordination with the ministry in Jerusalem, facilitated Rotben's return to Israel after he had left the country two years ago. In the early morning, in coordination with the embassy in Jordan, the emotional meeting between the mother and son took place after they had been unaware of his fate for a long period. The consulate, in close and intensive cooperation with the local authorities and in coordination with other Israeli organizations, worked diligently for his release from the hospital before the holiday, so that he could return to the embrace of his family after his two-year absence."