Zechariah Baumel

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Zechariah Baumel
Zechariah Baumel.png
Other name(s)Zachary Baumel
Born(1960-11-17)November 17, 1960
Brooklyn, New York, US
Died1982 (age 22)
Mount Herzl, Jerusalem, Israel
Allegiance Israel Defense Forces
Commands heldTank commander
Battles/wars Battle of Sultan Yacoub

Zechariah Baumel (Hebrew : זכריה באומל; 17 November 1960 – 1982), also known as Zachary Baumel, was an American-Israeli soldier in the Israel Defense Forces. On June 11, 1982, during the Battle of Sultan Yacoub in the 1982 Lebanon War, his unit was attacked and he and five other comrades were declared missing. One had been killed and was later found buried in Syria, and two were located alive in Syria and returned to Israel a few years later. But Baumel, Yehuda Katz, and Zvi Feldman remained unaccounted for. Until his death in 2009, Baumel's father Yona kept his son's case in the public eye, traveling around the world to uncover leads to verify the persistent rumors that his son was still alive, and criticizing the Israeli army for not pursuing the case vigilantly.

Hebrew language Semitic language native to Israel

Hebrew is a Northwest Semitic language native to Israel; the modern version of which is spoken by over 9 million people worldwide. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites and their ancestors, although the language was not referred to by the name Hebrew in the Tanakh. The earliest examples of written Paleo-Hebrew date from the 10th century BCE. Hebrew belongs to the West Semitic branch of the Afroasiatic language family. Hebrew is the only living Canaanite language left, and the only truly successful example of a revived dead language.

Israel Defense Forces combined military forces of Israel

The Israel Defense Forces, commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal, are the military forces of the State of Israel. They consist of the ground forces, air force, and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and has no civilian jurisdiction within Israel. The IDF is headed by its Chief of General Staff, the Ramatkal, subordinate to the Defense Minister of Israel; Lieutenant General Aviv Kochavi has served as Chief of Staff since January 15, 2019.

Battle of Sultan Yacoub battle

The Battle of Sultan Yacoub was a battle between Syria and Israel during the 1982 Lebanon War, which occurred near the village of Sultan Yacoub in the Lebanese Bekaa, close to the borders with Syria.


On April 3, 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the Russian army, in coordination with the Syrian military, had found Baumel's remains. The military operation was a result of a two-year cooperative effort between Israel and Russia to return bodies of missing Israeli soldiers buried in Syrian territory formerly controlled by ISIL; the operation was code-named Operation Bittersweet Song (Hebrew : זמר נוגה, Zemer Noogge). Baumel's remains were handed over to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an official ceremony at the Russian defense ministry in Moscow on April 3 and interred the following day at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem. The whereabouts of the other missing soldiers remain unknown. [1]

Vladimir Putin Russian politician, 2nd and 4th President of Russia

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin is a Russian politician and former intelligence officer serving as President of Russia since 2012, previously holding the position from 2000 until 2008. In between his presidential terms he was also the Prime Minister of Russia under his close associate Dmitry Medvedev.

Russian Ground Forces land warfare branch of the Russias military forces

The Ground Forces of the Russian Federation are the land forces of the Russian Armed Forces, formed from parts of the collapsing Soviet Army in 1992. The formation of these forces posed economic challenges after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and required reforms to professionalize the Ground Forces during the transition.

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Salafi jihadist terrorist and militant group

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, officially as the Islamic State (IS), and by its Arabic language acronym Daesh, is a Salafi jihadist militant group and former unrecognised proto-state that follows a fundamentalist, Salafi doctrine of Sunni Islam. ISIL gained global prominence in early 2014 when it drove Iraqi government forces out of key cities in its Western Iraq offensive, followed by its capture of Mosul and the Sinjar massacre.

Early life and family

Zechariah Baumel was born on November 17, 1960, in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Yona and Miriam Baumel. [1] He was the youngest of three children. [2] As a youth, he attended the Hebrew Institute of Boro Park. [1] In 1970 he, his parents, and siblings immigrated to Israel, settling in the Kiryat Motzkin neighborhood of Haifa. [1] He studied at a state religious school and advanced to Midreshiat No'am High School in Pardes Hanna. [1]

Brooklyn Borough in New York City and county in New York state, United States

Brooklyn is the most populous borough of New York City, with an estimated 2,648,771 residents in 2017. Named after the Dutch village of Breukelen, it borders the borough of Queens at the western end of Long Island. Brooklyn has several bridge and tunnel connections to the borough of Manhattan across the East River, and the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge connects it with Staten Island. Since 1896, Brooklyn has been coterminous with Kings County, the most populous county in the U.S. state of New York and the second-most densely populated county in the United States, after New York County.

Hebrew Institute of Boro Park (HIBP, also known as Yeshivas Etz Chaim was the first Jewish Day School in Boro Park.

Aliyah immigration of Jews from the diaspora to the Land of Israel

Aliyah is the immigration of Jews from the diaspora to the Land of Israel. Also defined as "the act of going up"—that is, towards Jerusalem—"making Aliyah" by moving to the Land of Israel is one of the most basic tenets of Zionism. The opposite action, emigration from the Land of Israel, is referred to in Hebrew as yerida ("descent"). The State of Israel's Law of Return gives Jews and their descendants automatic rights regarding residency and Israeli citizenship.

After high school graduation, Baumel enrolled in the hesder program at Yeshivat Har Etzion, a program that combines yeshiva studies with army service. [1] [3]

Hesder is an Israeli yeshiva program which combines advanced Talmudic studies with military service in the Israel Defense Forces, usually within a Religious Zionist framework. These yeshivot allow Orthodox Jewish men to fulfill the ideal of full and active participation in the defense of the Israeli people, while still engaging in Torah study during their formative years.

Yeshivat Har Etzion Hesder Yeshiva located in the West Bank.

Yeshivat Har Etzion, commonly known in English as "Gush" and in Hebrew as "Yeshivat HaGush", is a hesder yeshiva located in Alon Shvut, an Israeli settlement in Gush Etzion in the West Bank, near Jerusalem, Israel. With a student body of roughly 480, it is one of the largest hesder yeshivot in Israel and the West Bank.

Military career

Baumel served as a tank commander in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). [3] Close to the end of his military service Baumel was involved in the Battle of Sultan Yacoub in the 1982 Lebanon War. [1] On June 11, 1982, his unit was attacked and, after the battle, he and five others were reported as missing in action. [3] Later on the day of the battle, Western journalists from Time , Associated Press, and La Stampa , as well as Syrian media sources, reported that three Israeli soldiers and their tank were paraded through Damascus in a "victory march". [2] [4] However, the images from this event were too blurry to verify the participants. [2] A few weeks after the incident, Syria announced it had interred four bodies in a Jewish cemetery; however, the exhumation of the graves by the Red Cross in 1983 turned up only one Israeli soldier reported missing from the battle, who was returned to Israel, and three Arabs. [4] [3] Of the other missing soldiers, Hezi Shai was captured by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command and taken to Syria, where he was discovered two years later and returned to Israel in a prisoner exchange in 1985. [2] [3] Aryeh Lieberman had also been taken to Syria and was returned to Israel in 1984. [2]

1982 Lebanon War 1982 war between Israel and forces in Lebanon

The 1982 Lebanon War, dubbed Operation Peace for Galilee by the Israeli government, later known in Israel as the Lebanon War or the First Lebanon War, and known in Lebanon as "the invasion", began on 6 June 1982, when the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) invaded southern Lebanon, after repeated attacks and counter-attacks between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) operating in southern Lebanon and the IDF that had caused civilian casualties on both sides of the border. The military operation was launched after gunmen from Abu Nidal's organization attempted to assassinate Shlomo Argov, Israel's ambassador to the United Kingdom. Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin blamed Abu Nidal's enemy, the PLO, for the incident, and treated the incident as a casus belli for the invasion.

Missing in action military casualty classification used for military persons missing during active service due to apparently involuntary reasons

Missing in action (MIA) is a casualty classification assigned to combatants, military chaplains, combat medics, and prisoners of war who are reported missing during wartime or ceasefire. They may have been killed, wounded, captured, or deserted. If deceased, neither their remains nor grave has been positively identified. Becoming MIA has been an occupational risk for as long as there has been warfare.

Time is an American weekly news magazine and news website published in New York City. It was founded in 1923 and originally run by Henry Luce. A European edition is published in London and also covers the Middle East, Africa, and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong. The South Pacific edition, which covers Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands, is based in Sydney. In December 2008, Time discontinued publishing a Canadian advertiser edition.

In the decades following Baumel's disappearance, his father Yona traveled around the world to uncover leads and interview "hundreds of witnesses and informants" to confirm or deny the persistent rumors that his son was still alive. [2] Prior to the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, Yasser Arafat handed over to Israel half of Baumel's dog tag and claimed that he had more information as to Baumel's whereabouts, but later declined to give more details. [4] As late as 2005, the elder Baumel met with people in Syria who said they had visited his son that year. [4] In 2006, the Baumels filed suit against Syria under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, charging the Syrian government and top officials with "Zachary's abduction and illegal imprisonment". [4]

Oslo Accords

The Oslo Accords are a set of agreements between the Government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO): the Oslo I Accord, signed in Washington, D.C., in 1993; and the Oslo II Accord, signed in Taba, Egypt, in 1995. The Oslo Accords marked the start of the Oslo process, a peace process aimed at achieving a peace treaty based on United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, and at fulfilling the "right of the Palestinian people to self-determination." The Oslo process started after secret negotiations in Oslo, resulting in the recognition by the PLO of the State of Israel and the recognition by Israel of the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people and as a partner in negotiations.

Yasser Arafat 20th-century former Palestinian President, and Nobel Peace Prize recipient

Mohammed Yasser Abdel Rahman Abdel Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa al-Husseini, popularly known as Yasser Arafat or by his kunya Abu Ammar, was a Palestinian political leader. He was Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) from 1969 to 2004 and President of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) from 1994 to 2004. Ideologically an Arab nationalist, he was a founding member of the Fatah political party, which he led from 1959 until 2004.

Dog tag identification tag worn by military personnel

"Dog tag" is an informal but common term for a specific type of identification tag worn by military personnel. The tags' primary use is for the identification of dead and wounded soldiers; as such, they have personal information about the soldiers written on them, and convey essential basic medical information such as the soldier's blood type and history of inoculations. They often indicate religious preference as well.

In Israel, the elder Baumel maintained a high public profile to keep his son's plight before the nation and the military. He joined many protests and demonstrations, briefly engaged in a hunger strike, and was openly critical of the way his family was being treated by the IDF. [5] In 2003 Baumel fought against the IDF's decision to declare his son dead. [2] In the absence of an official government effort to locate the missing soldiers, he and other parents of those missing established their own group called The International Coalition for Missing Israeli Soldiers and followed up leads around the world. As a result of their lobbying efforts in the United States, President Bill Clinton signed into law "A Bill to Locate and Secure the Release of Zachary Baumel, an American Citizen and Other Israelis Missing in Action" on November 8, 1999. This law ordered the US State Department to discuss the issue of missing Israeli soldiers with Arab governments in the Middle East on "an urgent basis", and to "[link] U.S. economic assistance to those governments to their cooperation". [5]

Recovery of remains

On April 3, 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the Russian army, in coordination with the Syrian military, had found Baumel's remains. [6] Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Moscow to meet with Putin, and then received Baumel's remains in a ceremony at the Russian defense ministry, where he was also presented with Baumel's jumpsuit and military boots. [7] According to Arab media, Baumel's remains and those of 20 other people had been found by militants excavating graves in the old Martyrs' Cemetery in the Yarmouk refugee camp south of Damascus earlier in April. [7] The Israeli–Russian cooperation was part of a two-year military operation called Operation Bittersweet Song, which endeavored to locate remains of missing Israeli soldiers buried in Syrian territory formerly controlled by ISIL. [7]

After positive DNA identification performed by forensic scientists in Tel Aviv, Baumel's remains were interred at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem on April 4, 2019, in the presence of Netanyahu and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. [8] Thousands attended the nighttime funeral. [9]

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Biography of Zachary Baumel". The International Coalition for Missing Israeli Soldiers. Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Lazaroff, Tovah (May 31, 2009). "Yona Baumel dies without knowing MIA son's fate". The Jerusalem Post . Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Benson, Pesach (April 4, 2019). "As an MIA is Laid to Rest, Who Are Israel's Missing Soldiers?". Honest Reporting . Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Klein, Aaron (November 20, 2006). "American captured by Syria 'still alive after 23 years'". Ynetnews . Retrieved April 5, 2019.
  5. 1 2 Sommer, Allison Kaplan (April 3, 2019). "The Missing Soldier's Father Felt Betrayed by Israel. He Died Before the Body Was Found". Haaretz . Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  6. Gross, Judah Ari (April 4, 2019). "Putin: Syria helped Russian army find remains of IDF soldier missing since 1982". The Times of Israel . Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  7. 1 2 3 Lazaroff, Tovah; Ahronheim, Anna (April 4, 2019). "Putin: Our Soldiers Found Baumel's Body Along with Syrian Forces". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  8. "After 37 years, Israeli soldier missing since First Lebanon War laid to rest". Ynetnews. April 4, 2019. Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  9. "MIA IDF soldier laid to rest 37 years late". Arutz Sheva . April 4, 2019. Retrieved April 4, 2019.