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Residents of the Druse villages of Daliat al-Carmel and Usfiya, along with supporters from Haifa, Tel Aviv, Ra'anana and as far away as South Africa, gathered Thursday night to press for increased efforts to determine the fate of missing Druse soldier Majdi Halabi, who disappeared in May of 2005 on the way from his home to his Haifa base.
The meeting was held on the second anniversary of the disappearance of Halabi, 19, who was still undergoing basic training. He was last seen at the town's central bus station on May 24, 2005 and was thought to have had only NIS 50 in his possession, confirmed by the last computer recorded transaction at his local automatic teller machine.
The first anyone in the Halabi family knew that the young soldier was missing, "was when his commanding office came to our house two days later and asked, "Where is Majdi?"" related his distraught mother, Fehimiya.
Unlike the other missing or kidnapped Israel soldiers, there had been little coverage of Majdi's disappearance in the Israel media. The Jerusalem Post ran a spread in its Metro magazine last month.
David Hirsch, vice chairman of the South African Zionist Federation, who is currently on a visit to Israel, was "mesmerized by the evening. Why are people not talking and shouting about Majdi like all the other missing soldiers? This is not a story about a Druse soldier, but an Israeli soldier and I will take this story back to our community in South Africa."
Samih Halabi, chairman of the "Campaign to Find Missing Soldier Majdi Halabi," thanked all those actively involved but said "we believe Majdi is alive, that he been has been kidnapped and we are determined to find and bring him home. We are moving this campaign into high gear."
The family recently met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who shared the family's belief that their son had been kidnapped and "undertook to do all he could to find him," said Hasson Hasson, a high-ranking Druse officer in the IDF and who accompanied the family to the meeting with Olmert in Jerusalem.
First to address the gathering was Mayor Akram Hasson who was followed by government officials, members of families whose loved ones are still missing, religious leaders, a former prisoner of war as well as friends of Majdi.
The meeting certainly reignited the campaign, making it no longer a question of "Who is Majdi Halabi?" but "Where is Majdi Halabi?"
The IDF told Metro at the time: "To this day, the police, the Military Police Investigations Division, the IDF's Unit for Locating Missing Servicemen and IDF intelligence continue to investigate the disappearance and search for his present whereabouts, so far without results.
"The IDF is sparing no resources in its attempts to locate the soldier and maintains warm, ongoing contact with the family."
The IDF's Unit for Locating Missing Servicemen acts with the same commitment to all missing soldiers, and believes that everything must be done to bring them home. This the spirit of the IDF, under which we operate."