56 years on, Israeli Air Force finds remains of missing pilot in Kinneret

The IDF Spokesperson's Unit announced on Tuesday that Naveh's remains were discovered on October 25 among debris from his plane which crashed into the Kinneret.

Offices from the Israeli Air Force review the remains of Yakir Naveh's plane.  (photo credit: IAF)
Offices from the Israeli Air Force review the remains of Yakir Naveh's plane.
(photo credit: IAF)

Fifty-six years after he went down over Lake Kinneret, the remains of Israel Air Force pilot Lt. Yakir Naveh have been discovered, the IDF said on Tuesday.

According to the military, the IAF began the 12th round of searches for his remains on the bottom of the Kinneret on October 12 by using modern and advanced marine technology. On October 25, his remains were discovered among debris from his plane. They were then transferred to the Institute of Forensic Medicine where they were positively identified as Naveh’s.
“This effort is part of the IDF’s moral and ethical obligation to locate all missing soldiers and captives, and all fallen IDF soldiers whose burial places are unknown,” the army said, adding that the IAF has been in continuous contact with Naveh’s family.
Naveh’s funeral will take place on November 13 at 3 p.m. at Tel Aviv’s Kiryat Shaul Military Cemetery.
Yakir Naveh (Credit: IDF Spokesperon's Unit)Yakir Naveh (Credit: IDF Spokesperon's Unit)
In May 1962, Naveh was an air force instructor flying with IAF cadet Oded Kuton. Naveh’s aircraft was part of a three-plane formation that was flying low over the Kinneret. His French two-seat jet trainer Fouga suddenly hit the water and while Kuton, who was the pilot, tried to pull up, it dipped back down and was eventually swallowed by a massive wave.
Naveh was 23 and newly married at the time. Rescue teams were immediately dispatched, but they only recovered bits and pieces of the plane. Almost a year later, a fishing boat’s anchor became stuck to something heavy on the seabed; it turned out to be the pilot’s seat with Kuton still strapped into it.
Parts of the Fouga turned up over the years, but the searches for Naveh did not produce any results.
The IDF has searched for Naveh for decades. In 2008, the IAF’s Unit for the Location of Missing Servicemen renewed the searches, believing that with new and advanced technology it would be possible to finally retrieve him.
“Our responsibility is to the soldier,” one of the officers told The Jerusalem Post at the time. “And we will do everything we can to locate the missing serviceman and bring him to a Jewish burial.”

The plane of Yakir Naveh, found by the IDF on October 25, 2018 (Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)The plane of Yakir Naveh, found by the IDF on October 25, 2018 (Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
In May, the IDF announced that it located the remains of Pvt. Liebke Schaeffer, who was killed during the War of Independence, after an intensive search by the branch.
Schaeffer, who was born in Poland in 1914 and immigrated to Israel in 1939, was killed defending the kibbutz of Yad Mordechai from an Egyptian attack on the night of May 23-24 1948, more than a week after Israel was declared and established as a state.
Lt.-Col. Nir Israeli, head of the IDF’s Missing Persons Division, said in May that locating the bodies of soldiers killed in wars is not a simple task and the troops involved are required to have “initiative, commitment to the mission and professionalism.”
Having a “proper burial” is the IDF’s obligation to the fallen and their families. “Any investigation that comes to an end is significant,” Israeli said, adding that being able to give the family closure “gives us the strength to move on, to act and investigate tirelessly, in order to close the investigations of as many dead as possible whose burial place is not known.”
There are another 177 fallen soldiers whose bodies have still not been found and buried.