(April 4, 2019 / JNS) The funeral of Sgt. First Class Zachary Baumel, who has been missing for 37 years since the battle of Sultan Yacoub during the Lebanon War in 1982, has been scheduled for Thursday evening at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem.
The funeral will take place at 7 p.m. and be attended by family members, as well as government and military dignitaries.
Baumel, an American-born immigrant to Israel, is believed to have been killed in the war between Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) operatives, Syrian troops and Israel in Lebanon, at the age of 21. He was serving as a tank commander in a bloody battle at Sultan Yacoub between Israel Defense Forces’ and the Syrian army in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley when he and 20 other Israeli servicemen were killed.
Baumel, along with soldiers Zvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz, were never found and deemed “missing in action.”
Though it is believed that the three were killed in battle, another theory suggests that they were taken as prisoners in Damascus.
Since their disappearance, Israel has worked to gather information and explore diplomatic channels to retrieve the soldiers’ remains as part of a mission called “Operation Bittersweet Song.” The announcement that Baumel’s remains had been evacuated to Israel in a covert operation assisted by an unnamed third country became public on Wednesday.
Speculation is that the mission was assisted by Russia, which has said previously that it helped Israel search for missing soldiers’ remains in Syria. Baumel was one of 10 bodies transferred to Israel, identified through forensic testing.
Israel held out hope that Feldman and Katz would be identified among the remains, but none of the bodies belonged to either of the men. The positive confirmation that Baumel was among the deceased was not publicized until more bodies could be tested.
Though Zachary Baumel’s father, Yoma Baumel, passed away 10 years ago, he is survived by his 90-year-old mother, Miriam, and siblings.
An addition to his remains, Baumel’s family was given his tzitzit and tank jumpsuit, which were also recovered.
“This is a repayment of a moral debt to the fallen soldiers of the IDF, a repayment of a moral debt to their families,” said Netanyahu, saying the retrieval of Baumel is “one of the most moving moments in all my years as prime minister.”
In 2016, an Israeli tank from the war was returned to Israel by Russia.