As we celebrate Rosh Hashanah 5760 and look forward to the upcoming Yamim Nora’im, we should recall that four Israeli young men will not be with their families to enjoy these holidays with us. While fighting for their people and the security of the State of Israel, four soldiers in the IDF were captured in Lebanon and taken prisoner. Since 1982 they remain MIA’s.
On June 11, 1982 Sgt. Zachary Baumel, Sgt. Zvi Feldman, and Sgt. Yehuda Katz were reported missing in action in Syria having fought in the battle of Sultan Yaqub during the war in Lebanon. This year marked the seventeenth anniversary of their capture. Their families have struggled long and hard to obtain information about the conditions in which they are being held. Arab countries have consistently refused to divulge this information. In spite of Israel’s aid in securing the release of the other Western hostages, including American hostages, that were being held in Lebanon, these Israeli hostages were not included in the release of the others. The pain and anxiety that their family and friends have been undergoing for the past seventeen years is immeasurable.
The fourth soldier, Captain Ron Arad, a navigator in the Israeli Air Force, has been held since he was captured in Lebanon on October 16, 1986. His family has also been in great pain in trying to attain reliable information about his condition and whereabouts.
Today we remember these Israeli MIA’s particularly as we celebrate Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah, as Chazal tell us, is the time that Yosef Hatzaddik was released from prison. This sends us the message that this Yom Tov has the capacity to facilitate the release and redemption of the Tzaddik that is part and parcel of the essential being of every Jew. In effect, Rosh Hashanah is the Yom Tov of pidyon shvuyim. May the Holy One Blessed be He reward your efforts to redeem our missing sons, and open for you all the gates of blessing.