Years after disappearances, Israel families continue fight to find missing relatives

While thousands of missing persons reports are filed with the police every year, around 60% of cases are solved in the first 24 to 48 hours.

December 22, 2016 19:25
2 minute read.
Israel police

Israel Police patrol car [File]. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Daniel Miniviski was 35-years-old when he went out for a smoke in October 2014 and never came back.

Daniel is just one of the over 500 “permanently missing” people in Israel. While the chances of finding Daniel are slim, his father, Yehoshua “Shuki” Miniviski, 63, says he has not given up and is pushing the police to place more attention to the cases and families of missing people.

“You don’t wake up one day, and say, ‘Okay, I’m done searching now.’ You keep searching,” said Miniviski.

“Families need closure, they need to know what happened.”

Miniviski is chairman of Without Them, an association made up of families with missing relatives. The association has gathered 50 of the around 550 families who have a family member still missing. Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh, along with Zionist Union MK Eyal Ben Reuven, met with representatives of Without Them on December 14 in an attempt to build better police relations with the families of missing people, who often criticize the police for inattentiveness and the lack of resources dedicated to the cases.

“Five-hundred missing people is a huge problem, this is [more than] just a few people or families,” Miniviski said.

Yet, according to Miniviski, if a soldier is lost or killed the state dedicates massive amounts of effort to recover the body, while missing people and their families are left largely to fend for themselves.

(Left to right: Vered and Yehoshua Miniviski, along with Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich, Yossi Yacobi, who lost his daughter Adi Yacobi 20 years ago, Zionist Union MK Eyal Ben-Reuven and members of the missing persons investigations department.)

There are around 500 persons on Israel’s “permanently missing” list; a police spokeswoman declined to give an exact number. While thousands of missing persons reports are filed with the police every year, around 60% of cases are solved in the first 24 to 48 hours. “You have to understand that sometimes a person just wants to be gone for a few hours, or their phone dies,” said a senior police official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

But if the missing person is not found within two days, the chance of finding him or her drops significantly.

Many families spend large amounts of their own money paying private investigators and organizing media campaigns.

Volunteer search groups, some equipped with dogs and jeeps, are also active in filling what many families believe is a gap in police attention.

In the meeting with Alsheikh, Without Them demanded more police cooperation with the specialized volunteer units, who often operate without police guidance, including increasing police manpower in the missing persons police unit and communication between police and the families, especially after years have gone by.

“Once the police stop looking for the missing person, the family is left alone. The family needs support and they need communication,” Miniviski said.

“During the meeting, [Without Them] representatives presented their feelings about how the police deal with the issue [of missing persons] and handling the investigations of missing people,” said Thursday’s statement from the police. “[There was] an emphasis on long-term cases.”

Without Them is also advocating changes to Israeli law, which currently lacks a legal status for missing persons, and economic assistance for the families.

“The chances of finding [someone alive] after 15 years is very low,” Miniviski said.

“But every family needs to know what happened to their family members.”

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