(photo credit: Courtesy)
As Remembrance Day neared, the familiar faces of Israel's MIAs dotted the Born to Freedom Foundation's Web site and fliers on Monday, but one face was conspicuously absent.
Missing soldier Zachary Baumel's picture and name were not included in the organization's publications, after the Baumel family asked that their son not be represented by the foundation.
"The Baumel family has a number of complaints toward the government and the IDF," explained Active Vice Chairman Eliad Shraga, "and they see us as too closely tied to those institutions. I would welcome their participation, and we would be happy to help them - because I believe we can help."
But Yonah Baumel, the father of the soldier who has been missing since summer 1982, said he believed the organization had been founded primarily with the goal of finding out the fate of missing IAF navigator Ron Arad, and that "the other missing soldiers are like poor relatives."
Furthermore, Baumel said, "both the IDF and the government are making efforts to sweep the story of Sultan Yaakub under the carpet."
Three soldiers - Baumel, Tzvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz - are still missing after the June 11, 1982 battle in which 21 other soldiers were killed. The IDF, Yonah Baumel said, is interested in declaring the three dead and designating them soldiers whose places of burial are unknown.
But despite rejecting working with the Born to Freedom Foundation, Baumel insisted that he and his family were still working independently to secure information on "Zak," who made aliya from New York with his family when he was 10 years old.
"We are extremely active," explained Baumel. "It's a difficult situation - so many years have passed. But we believe that there's a good chance that Zak is still alive. We have people working contacts even in enemy countries."
The family is known to have established a network of contacts, including members of both the Israeli and international intelligence communities.
Nevertheless, noted Baumel, "we haven't had any rousing successes. It's hard, slow work, and we still have hope."
In the first two decades after their son's disappearance, the Baumels traveled around the world personally searching for clues to their son's whereabouts. In recent years, medical problems have slowed Yonah Baumel down, and he said he was now delegating more tasks to others.