Missing Links: Every Year, 20 Israelis Disappear Without a Trace

Sapir Nahum, the 24-year-old Israeli woman whose body was recently discovered 11 days after she disappeared, is far from being a rare case. Shomrim has obtained the real figures regarding the number of missing persons in Israel: some 4,500 missing person files are opened every year, and close to 600 have remained open since the establishment of the state. Their families face complete chaos, with many descending into a financial tailspin and their bank accounts being foreclosed – but the bills and debts continue to mount up. The weakest sectors of society, who have no voice and resources, are helpless; the law does not provide any solution, and the State Comptroller has been asked to weigh in on the police's inadequate handling of the problem. A police response: "We see the issue as a mission.". A Shomrim investigation with Mako

Sapir Nahum, the 24-year-old Israeli woman whose body was recently discovered 11 days after she disappeared, is far from being a rare case. Shomrim has obtained the real figures regarding the number of missing persons in Israel: some 4,500 missing person files are opened every year, and close to 600 have remained open since the establishment of the state. Their families face complete chaos, with many descending into a financial tailspin and their bank accounts being foreclosed – but the bills and debts continue to mount up. The weakest sectors of society, who have no voice and resources, are helpless; the law does not provide any solution, and the State Comptroller has been asked to weigh in on the police's inadequate handling of the problem. A police response: "We see the issue as a mission.". A Shomrim investigation with Mako

Sapir Nahum, the 24-year-old Israeli woman whose body was recently discovered 11 days after she disappeared, is far from being a rare case. Shomrim has obtained the real figures regarding the number of missing persons in Israel: some 4,500 missing person files are opened every year, and close to 600 have remained open since the establishment of the state. Their families face complete chaos, with many descending into a financial tailspin and their bank accounts being foreclosed – but the bills and debts continue to mount up. The weakest sectors of society, who have no voice and resources, are helpless; the law does not provide any solution, and the State Comptroller has been asked to weigh in on the police's inadequate handling of the problem. A police response: "We see the issue as a mission.". A Shomrim investigation with Mako

Chen Shalita

Photos of missing persons in Israel: Biladayhem

June 17, 2022

Summary

According to official figures, the number of Israelis who have disappeared without a trace since the establishment of the state in 1948 is 580 – but it is widely believed that the actual number is even larger. Israel Police opens some 4,500 missing person cases every year, while the emergency telephone services receive more than 20,000 calls from people reporting a missing person. These figures were revealed after Biladayhem ("Without Them"), a nonprofit organization representing the families of 61 missing Israelis, filed a freedom of information request.

There are many reasons why someone goes missing: youths who have run away from home; elderly people with dementia who have got lost; people who have become embroiled in criminal activities and have gone underground; people murdered for whatever reason whose bodies have never been located; tourists who have disappeared while traveling overseas; people with suicidal tendencies; and people just wanted to take a time out.

Most of these people are located within 48 hours of being reported missing. Between 15 and 20 people, a year are defined as long-term missing, usually after not being heard from for several months. According to a study conducted by the Policy and Strategic Planning Division of the Ministry of Public Security, every missing person directly affects the lives of a dozen people in their closest circles, whose lives have been fundamentally changed by the disappearance.

These people – parents, children, partners, and other close family members – are offered no support. While those Israeli families whose loved ones go missing during their army service enjoy support and funding from the Defense Ministry, the civilians have no one to talk to and no support. The Israel Police is responsible for gathering the intelligence needed to successfully locate a missing person, which means that the file remains on the shelf until the biannual review or until new information comes to light – but the families are not offered any help in the search or emotional support from social workers or psychologists.

Moreover, they are in a financial trap since they cannot touch the missing person's assets. That person's bank account cannot be used to finance search parties, and even a joint accountholder whose partner has gone missing could face restrictions on the use of that account. Similarly, a family cannot live off the savings of a missing person.

"We're in a very deep pit," says Yehudit Zohar, whose partner, Amit Reichman, has been missing since October 2016. "We spent one million shekels of our own money on searches because the insurance company refused to cover our claim. At the same time, there were health insurance payments, standing orders, and subscriptions that kept on coming out of his account. We couldn't cancel them because they want the account holder to be on the phone – and he's not there."

Varda Minivitzky, whose son Daniel disappeared in October 2014, now offers support to families in a similar situation through Biladayhem, which she and her husband founded a few months after their son's disappearance. "We would be happy for more families to join us," she says, "so the organization can become more powerful. For the past four years, we have been trying to advance legislation on this issue, but the government keeps falling, and nothing happens. I'm terrified that this government will also fall before passing the bill."

"The family of every missing person finds itself in a state of chaos," says Naama Zer Kavod, a partner at M. Firon Advocates, who volunteered to draft the bill that Biladayhem is trying to advance. "In addition to the sense of loss and the lack of certainty surrounding the fate of the missing family member, many legal questions need to be examined. No two cases are the same, and each one is different; a woman with two children whose husband is missing and who needs money is not the same as the family of someone who went missing 20 years ago."

This is a summary of shomrim's story published in Hebrew.
To read the full story click here.