Family of soldier missing in Gaza ‘moved’ by return of Zachary Baumel’s remains

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The family of an Israeli soldier whose remains are being held by Hamas in Gaza said they were “moved” that the family of missing Israeli soldier Zachary Baumel, an American citizen, now have closure after nearly four decades.

Leah and Simha Goldin, the parents of Lt. Hadar Goldin, who was killed on Aug. 1, 2014, during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in a violation of a U.N.-brokered ceasefire, said in a statement issued on Thursday that “The pain and anguish of losing a son and not knowing his fate is indescribable.”

News that Baumel’s remains had been repatriated was announced publicly on Wednesday.

“From news reports we learned that Zachary’s return was a direct result of the heroic actions of the IDF.  Blood money was not paid to terrorists to bring him home – it was the courage and determination of the IDF not to leave a soldier behind that ultimately brought Zachary home,” the statement said. “For almost five years, we have asked the political and military leaders of our country to act courageously to bring our son home from Gaza. Instead we learn that deals are made with terror supporting nations and money is delivered directly to the Hamas terrorists that have Hadar’s blood on their hands.”

Baumel and his family, who made aliyah from Brooklyn in 1970, were and continue to be represented in New York by Sen. Charles Schumer, now the Senate minority leader.

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During his 18 years in the House of Representatives, Schumer spoke each year from the floor of the chamber about the soldier on the anniversary of his disappearance.

“After nearly 37 years, answers have finally surfaced for the family and friends of Brooklyn-born IDF tank commander, Zachary Baumel, who was returned to Israel after going missing in Lebanon in 1982 during the First Lebanon War,” Schumer told JTA.  “As Zachary’s former congressman, I spoke from the House floor and worked closely with his family, and in conjunction with several organizations, in pursuit of justice and answers regarding the condition of Zachary and his fellow soldiers. After so many years, he will finally get the proper burial he deserves.”

Baumel’s remains were buried in Israel on Thursday evening in Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem, in a long-overdue funeral attended by thousands.

Asna Haberman, Zachary’s sister, the return of the remains is the result of 37 years’ worth of prayers. “All of our prayers during these 37 years went to one place and the prayers have brought us here. I thought what I would do when you return, but now I can’t even hug you,” said Asna Haberman, Baumel’s sister, according to Ynet. “But the soil is hugging you tightly because there is nothing but love between the son who gave everything for this land and the land itself.”

“We are saying goodbye to you today. I am letting this land have you … Rest in peace, my dear brother,” she said.