34 years after capture, Ron Arad's wife: 'Let's not repeat same mistakes'

In a moving Facebook post, Tami Arad recalled early years of hope and despair waiting for her husband to return home.

Ron arad with baby 224.8 (photo credit: Channel 10)
Ron arad with baby 224.8
(photo credit: Channel 10)
On October 16, 1986, Israel Air Force navigator Ron Arad was captured by the Shi’ite militia Amal after he ejected from the Phantom F4 fighter jet he was flying when it went down over Lebanon because of a munitions malfunction.
Arad was taken alive, and his captors sent back messages intermittently. But his plight is unknown, and although he is officially listed as missing in action, he is presumed to have died in captivity. Now, 34 years later, his wife, Tami, has reflected on the unsuccessful attempts to bring her husband home.
In a moving Facebook post, she wrote about the state’s retrieval efforts and what he has meant to her and to Israelis at large.
“The first hours after his capture were the most critical,” she wrote. “I cried in anguish and helplessness.”
IDF forces were held back from embarking on a rescue mission during those first hours, and it was a decision that proved critical. Arad’s fellow crew member, Yishai Aviram, the pilot of the aircraft, was extracted in a daring helicopter rescue. But a similar effort to retrieve Arad proved impossible.
For the first two years after his capture, Tami Arad received his letters and photographs. But afterward, there was no more news or information about him or his possible whereabouts.
 

“To this day, I have a hard time looking at them,” she wrote about those photos. “But they served as testimony to the fact that he was still alive, and that was everything.”
Israeli intelligence officials believed Arad had been transferred to Tehran, Yediot Aharonot reported at the time. Iran is well known to be a major backer of Shi’ite militias in Lebanon.
Tami Arad said the letters bore witness to her husband’s suffering and the torture he was experiencing and that he was being treated “like a caged animal.” After three years of silence, Ron Arad’s family enlisted the public to try to get the government to do more to secure his release. But the massive and sustained effort was to no avail, and he never returned.
But Tami Arad said she is not grim.
“The lone success that we can humbly claim is that Ron is a cornerstone of our national consciousness,” she wrote. “Perhaps we’ve succeeded in imprinting his fate in the people’s hearts... Maybe we can prevent the mistakes that were made with him from happening again.”