“The very existence of this unit is a promise to every soldier in the IDF (Zahal) – wherever you are, whatever happens to you, we will find you and bring you home.”
Missing and kidnapped soldiers are a sensitive subject among Israelis. It has always been the goal of Israel’s enemies to capture Israeli soldiers, dead or alive. The IDF (Zahal)’s Missing Person’s Unit goes to great lengths to find these missing soldiers, even if only for burial purposes.
“Every time we find a soldier, we bring peace to his family, whether he’s alive or not,” explained Major Yan Berman. “It might seem strange, because how can you bring peace to a bereaved family? But at least the family now has a place to grieve.”
The Missing Persons Unit (MPU) was originally founded after the Yom Kippur War in 1973 in order to locate the 2,000 soldiers that went missing during the war. The unit was later dismantled, but after the First Lebanon War it was re-established.
Once a soldier is determined missing, whether he was kidnapped or went missing in the battlefield, the MPU must respond as fast as possible. Through rigorous examination and meticulous interrogations, the experts of the MPU locate the missing soldiers.
The unit continues to search for the soldiers until they are found, even if it takes years. “Part of the unit investigates cases of soldiers who have been missing for many years,” explained Maj. Berman. “Some of these soldiers have been missing since the War of Independence. They’ve been missing for 67 years but we still work every day, trying to locate them. The very existence of this unit is a promise to every soldier in the IDF (Zahal) – wherever you are, whatever happens to you, we will find you and bring you home.”
Today, there are five missing soldiers in the IDF (Zahal), and 179 fallen soldiers whose place of burial is unknown.