The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the largest mainstream Orthodox Jewish organization with nearly 1,000 synagogues nationwide, today praised Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA) and Congressman Benjamin Gilman (R-NY) for introducing H.R.1175, a bill that directs the Department of State to raise the issue of missing Israeli soldiers Zachary Baumel, Yehuda Katz, and Tsvi Feldman with officials of Syria, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, and other relevant parties in the Middle East in an effort to locate and secure the return of these soldiers.
Dr. Mandell I. Ganchrow, Orthodox Union President, said, “First Sergeant Tsvi Feldman, Sergeant Zachary Baumel, who is also an American citizen, and Corporal Yehuda Katz, were reported missing in action nearly 17 years ago. They are still unaccounted for. They were captured after the Battle of Sultan Yaqub which raged in the Bekaa Valley between an Israeli tank unit and a Syrian armor unit on June 11, 1982. We have long labored for their release as well as for the revelation of any information regarding their status or whereabouts. To their families, each day is a lifetime.
Since it has been impossible to obtain any information as to the fate of these missing soldiers, either through the good offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross or other international bodies, we praise Congressman Lantos and Congressman Gilman for increasing the urgent efforts that will help us find these soldiers, in our tradition of fulfilling the commandment of redeeming the captive.”
Betty Ehrenberg, Director of International Affairs and Community Relations, said, “For too long, Zachary Baumel, Yehuda Katz, and Tsvi Feldman have been missing in action and have been denied their rights to be seen by a Red Cross representative and communicate with their families. Israel, in the past, helped in securing the release of the Western hostages. Despite this, while the Western hostages were released, Israel is still fighting for the release of these soldiers.
We hope that this bill will help secure information on the whereabouts of the Israeli MIA’s so that they may be reunited soon with their families. Since Syria controls the area where the soldiers were last seen, they are, according to the Geneva Convention of 1949, the responsibility of Syria. We hope that this bill will assist in bringing about the safe release of these soldiers who, for too long, have been held as hostages.”