When reports surfaced this past summer that an Austrian girl who had vanished on her way to school in Vienna eight years ago reappeared after being held as a sex slave in an underground dungeon, Betty Ya'acobi felt a glimmer of hope that she would learn what happened to her daughter, Adi, who went missing in the heart of Tel Aviv 10 years ago.
"Maybe this is like what happened in Austria - there is no shortage of crazy people in this country," said Ya'acobi in an interview with The Jerusalem Post as she marked the 10th anniversary of Adi's disappearance. "I like to think that if she was still alive she would have called me or her sister or her father. She would have given us a sign."
There has been no word from Adi since she spent the afternoon of December 13, 1996 shopping with her twin sister Sarit on Tel Aviv's trendy Rehov Sheinkin. The girls, then 16, parted at about 5 p.m., with Sarit returning to the apartment of their father, Yossi. Adi said she was going to sleep at a friend's house.
A Tel Aviv Police District spokesman told the Post this week that Adi's file was still open, but that there had been no new information for some time. At the time of her disappearance, police interviewed Adi's family and friends, scoured nightclubs, pubs and other places she frequented, and followed up on information from the public. No clues turned up.
"We've lived for all these years without any information about her," said Ya'acobi, the strain evident. "I feel very alone with this. There's no one to support me while I suffer this trauma. Although it's been so many years, it doesn't get any easier."
"My situation is not the same as the families of soldiers who are missing. They have an address for where their child has gone. The whole country, the whole world shares their anguish with them. I have nothing. Every day that passes kills me," she said, adding that Sarit no longer wants to talk about her sister's disappearance and Adi's friends have not stayed in contact.
Ya'acobi said her biggest fear was that her daughter's case would go completely cold - that everybody would forget Adi is still missing.
"I still have to get the information out to the public," she said. "The police would not have caught the rapist [Benny Sela] without releasing information to the public."
As for the police, who have come under increasing criticism of late, Ya'acobi said forcefully that "they were very helpful" and continued to be so.
"But I still feel like we must have missed something back then," she said. "I go over it again and again."
And asked whether the passage of time had done anything to ease her pain, Ya'acobi answered without hesitation: "I try to tell myself that this hasn't really happened, that I will eventually wake up from this nightmare, but my life has completely changed. I no longer trust anyone."
"I won't be able to rest until I know what happened to her," she said. "All I hope is that I eventually find out the truth about what happened to my daughter, before I die."
She urged anyone with information to contact the police or to call her personal hotline at (03) 522-5906.