Photo: Reproduction
Yonah and Zachary Baumel
Photo: Reproduction
Eitan Haber
A father who never gave up on his son
Opinion: I will always remember Yonah Baumel, skullcap on head and hat in hand, as he hovered in the doorways of ministers; he never abandoned the search for his eldest child Zachary, even though he knew we had not either

The man I am missing today is Yonah Baumel, father of Zachary, the IDF soldier whose remains were returned to his family after 37 years.



I long to see him, and would be willing to pay a high price for that experience.

Yonah Baumel and his son, Zachary  (Photo reproduction: Amit Shaabi)
Yonah Baumel and his son, Zachary


I will never forget him. A bowed Jewish man, skullcap on his head and hat in his hands. He fidgeted with the hat endlessly, as if afraid that the defense minister would throw him down the stairs.


He had a small bag containing every press clipping imaginable on his son, and perhaps also a small sandwich prepared by his wife, Miriam, for her husband as he hovered in the doorways of the great and the good.


Yonah Baumel died about 10 years ago, having spent the last years of his life stubbornly searching for every snippet of information about his eldest son, lost in the First Lebanon War.


Every article and every word in every outlet would galvanize him. When a two-line article appeared in a Jordanian newspaper, Yonah Baumel would immediately appear at the office of the defense minister and the prime minister.


Zachary Baumel's mother, Miriam, sets out for his funeral in Jerusalem, April 4, 2019 (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
Zachary Baumel's mother, Miriam, sets out for his funeral in Jerusalem, April 4, 2019 (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)


He did not know much about what was happening behind the scenes, and only occasionally did he learn about it from the newspapers or the radio. It was clear to him that his son had not been abandoned in any way, and yet Yonah still went to stand in the doorways of ministers.


His American accent went before him, like a calling card, as he travelled all over the country. Yonah was everywhere, at any time, any hour. He was there when the other two families, Feldman and Katz, entrusted him with the task of canvassing Israel's leaders.


Zachary Baumel (Photo: Reproduction)
Zachary Baumel (Photo: Reproduction)


Also missing from the picture is the late Lt. Col. Shlomit Carmi, former head of the IDF missing persons unit. Karmi demanded that the three be declared fallen soldiers whose burial place was unknown. She was fervently determined to solve the mystery of the missing men, and stopped Yonah from wandering aimlessly through the corridors of power.


The final act of Zachary Baumel's life - to return to Israel for burial – was faciliated by members of the Israeli intelligence community, 37 years after he was lost in battle. The IDF always promised he would come home.


Eitan Haber was bureau chief and advisor to late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin


פרסום ראשון: 04.04.19, 23:32
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