Tuesday, July 8, 2008

MIA Killed in 1948 Found in an Arab Cemetery


Thank G-d we have found him-- A Hero, absolutely.

Yes, he should be in a Jewish Cemetary. This is required by law, of course. However, it is clear that, at least, he was buried with some dignity--not thrown in a pit or something disrespectful. This shows that those who buried him had some respect for life and death--unlike their grandchildren, who desecrate even the Kever of Yosef!

Yes, we need to return him to his people, and bury him in a Jewish cemetery. However, we must move with delicacy, as we should be careful not to disturb the graves of those around him who also have people who care about them and how they are buried. By honoring our dead we do not need to show disrespect for the dead of others. If we work with delicacy now, we will prevent problems in the future when similar actions must be taken.

This is not an emergency, yet, but it is a priority. G-d willing his grave will not be desecrated now, so many years later.

by Nissan Ratzlav-Katz

(IsraelNN.com) Knesset Member Rabbi Chaim Amsalem (Shas) has begun taking action to bring an IDF soldier killed in action in the 1948 War of Independence to burial in a Jewish cemetery. Despite the known whereabouts of the soldier's grave, in an Arab village near Jerusalem, he has not been reburied as he has no living relatives in Israel who could demand it.

MK Amsalem learned this week about the "missing" soldier, Col. Shimon (Sam) Smargad, from a soldier involved
in an IDF course for locating and identifying MIAs.

Documents were found in a military archive indicating that Arab informants told Israeli intelligence services several years ago that Smargad was buried in a cemetery in one of the Arab villages near Jerusalem. The documentation included a map to the grave marked by the informants.

He has not been reburied as he has no living relatives in Israel who could demand it.

Village elders confirmed to General Security Services (Shabak) agents that a Jewish soldier was indeed buried in their cemetery. They pointed out a grave that was noticeably different from its neighbors and claimed that it belonged to the missing IDF soldier. Further investigation proved beyond any doubt that it was the grave of Smargad. However, no further action was taken to remove the fallen IDF veteran and bury him among his brethren, in a Jewish cemetery.

When asked by MK Amsalem about the subsequent inaction to retrieve Smargad's remains from the village, now perfectly accessible to Israeli authorities, IDF sources admitted that the political echelon has not given its approval. The IDF source added that the lack of initiative on the part of the government is the result of Smargad having no living relatives who can demand his remains, which would force the authorities to make the necessary efforts to move the fallen soldier's grave.

The case of Smargad was discovered several years ago, when the IDF began conducting organized research and physical searches for several MIAs from the War of Independence. However, MK Amsalem is unaware of any other such cases of definitely identified, but abandoned, MIA graves.

'Sir! All Jews Are Brethren'
Immediately after hearing of the tragic case, MK Amsalem contacted IDF Chief Rabbi Avichai Ronsky and Defense Minister Ehud Barak about the matter of bringing Smargad to rest in a Jewish cemetery.

"At this time, when the state is moving mountains in an effort to retrieve its MIAs, it is impossible that it would refrain from bringing one of its soldiers to a Jewish grave for the shameful reason that he has no relative who demands it. Sir! All Jews are brethren," MK Amsalem wrote in a letter to the Defense Minister. "We are discussing our own flesh and blood who went out to give his life to protect the nation and its land, for me and for you. How can it be that we will abandon his body without bringing it to a Jewish grave, without a memorial worthy of him?

"I hereby ask that you see to it that the appropriate authorities do their duty, and our duty to this fallen Jew, and bring him to a Jewish cemetery as soon as possible, as is his due."

The IDF MIA website says that Smargad, a Company Commander in the Etzioni Brigade, was born in 1924 in Vienna, Austria. He went missing during a patrol and retaliatory raid in the vicinity of the Arab village known as Malcha sometime between the 13th and 14th of September, 1948. A body matching Smargad's description was displayed to a UN officer two weeks later by Egyptian soldiers. Until the more recent IDF investigations, it was unknown what became of Col. Smargad's bullet-riddled body.

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