AFTER 37 YEARS: Body Of Soldier Returned to Israel
First Sergeant Zachary Baumel

37 years after going missing in the battle of Sultan Yaaqub in Lebanon, the body of Israeli soldier Zachary Baumel has been returned to Israel, the Israel Defense Forces spokesman said Wednesday.

"His body is in Israel. The body has been identified. It has been verified," IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus tells reporters.

"Head of the IDF Human Resources Directorate Maj. Gen. Moti Almoz informed the family just a few minutes ago," he says.

He said it has been transferred aboard an El Al flight via an unnamed third country in an operation by Israeli intelligence agencies, but not as part of any deal with other countries.

PM Netanyahu spoke to the Nation and stated that the body is 100% that of Baumel. In fact his Tzitzis were returned as well as his tank jumpsuit.

"Citizens of Israel, this is one of the most moving moments in all my years as Prime Minister of Israel. A few days ago, the remains of the body of IDF soldier Sgt. First Class Zachary Baumel were brought to Israel. Zachary fell in the battle at Sultan Yacoub during Operation Peace for Galilee; he was considered missing for 37 years.

During all of these years, the State of Israel invested vast efforts in solving the riddle of his fate and those of his two comrades from that battle, Zvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz. Zachary's bones which were brought to Israel were positively identified. With them were also found his tank jump-suit and his tzitzit. Soon Zachary will be brought to his eternal resting place with a Jewish burial.

I remember Zachary's father Yonah. I remember well his pain when he spoke about his son, about his yearning, about his longing. He traveled the world in order to locate any piece of information about his missing son.

Many times Yonah told me with tears in his eyes that he had one prayer — to find Zachary before he himself passed away. To our sorrow, Yonah passed away about a decade ago and is not with us today at this wrenching moment.

A short time ago we informed Zachary's family, his mother, his brothers and his sister that we had brought him back home. They and the entire people of Israel will escort Zachary to his eternal resting place, his final rest in the soil of the land of Israel.

I would like to thank the entire intelligence community — the Mossad, ISA, IDF Intelligence and the IDF for their work in bringing Zachary Baumel back to Israel. This effort entailed wide-ranging diplomatic activity that will yet be told of.

Zachary Baumel was one of three soldiers missing since the Sultan Yaaqub battle in 1982.

President Reuven Rivlin commented on the return of the body of First Sergeant Zachary Baumel זײל.

The president said, "We have received the moving and painful news that the body of First Sergeant Zachary Baumel זײל has been brought home to Israel. 37 unbearable years of painful waiting, of questions and doubts have come to an end thanks to the determined and ceaseless work of the IDF and Israel's intelligence community."

"On this difficult, moving and sad day, our thoughts are with the Baumel family, crying and hurting with them as they bring their son Zachary to eternal rest in our country, our land," he added. "I thank the IDF and the whole Israeli intelligence community for their commitment, bravery and action, day and night, to bring our soldiers and those who fell defending the country and the people, home. We will not cease until all our soldiers have returned home — First Sergeant Yehuda Katz, First Sergeant Zvika Feldman and all those missing in action and whose place of burial is not known. Our commitment to our soldiers has always been, and will always be, a shining light. We go to battle together, and together we return from it," he added.

Zachary Baumel was born in Brooklyn New York on November 17, 1960. He is the youngest son of Yona and Miriam Baumel.

Until the age of ten, Zachary attended the Hebrew Institute of Boro Park (also known as Yeshivat Etz Chaim). Then in 1970, Zachary and his family immigrated to Israel.

After graduating high school, Zak chose to do his military service in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Hesder framework, which combines religious studies and army service. Zak split his time between religious studies at *Yeshivat Har Etzion in Alon Shvut, and the I.D.F. Armored Corps, where he eventually became a tank commander. During this period, while continuing to be an exceptional basketball player, Zak began to seriously invest himself in his studies. He was subsequently appointed dorm counselor for American students who had come for a year of study, who needed assistance in adjusting to the rigorous program of study at Har Etzion. Many of the most active members of the campaign to secure the release Zachary and his colleagues were his fellow students during this period.

Zachary had nearly completed his military service, when he was called up to serve in the Lebanon War. He has been accepted for the coming semester at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and was planning to study psychology. During that fateful summer of 1982, he had also secured a job working with youth from abroad as part of a Jewish Agency program. On June 11, 1982, just hours before the declaration of a cease-fire, Zak and his colleagues were sent into battle near the Lebanese village of Sultan Yaqub. 21 Israelis were killed that day, and many more were injured. Three soldiers — Zachary Baumel, Zachary's dog tag Tzvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz, went missing.

Zak's last message to his parents, delivered on a postcard shortly before the battle, asked for a few personal items and concluded with a brief note of assurance to his worried parents: " Don't worry, everything is okay, but it looks like I won't be home for a while."

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