A few days before the anniversary of Gilad Shalit’s return home from captivity in Gaza, the story of another missing Israeli soldier has come to an altogether more tragic end.
Majdy Halabi, an ethnic Druze, disappeared in May 2005 near his home in northern Israel. Today, in a brief statement, the Israeli military said that his body has been found.
In 2008 his family received a phone call from a prisoner in an Israeli jail suggesting that Halabi had been abducted to the West Bank. Earlier this year three prisoners tried to negotiate a plea bargain in return for information on the location of the body. But in the end, it was a hiker who found the remains in a forest near Halabi’s home, suggesting it was a more mundane crime.
“The remains were discovered approximately two weeks ago, near the town of Usfiya, and were identified by the Institute of Forensic Medicine,” said the statement. “The circumstances of his death are currently under investigation by the Israeli Police.”
Halabi’s family has always maintained that he was kidnapped, but the location of his body in proximity to his home would seem to indicate that he was killed near there on the day of his disappearance.
The Halabi story raises an uncomfortable question for Israeli society. As it happens, it seems that campaigns for his freedom wouldn’t have helped bring him home, but we didn’t know what until now. So why does his name draw blank responses while Shalit was a household name throughout his disappearance? Almost all Jewish Israelis identified with the plight of the Shalits, who saw them as parents just like themselves, but the Halabis, a Druze family, didn’t seem familiar in the same way.
The circumstances of the disappearances were different, and on one level it is inevitable that the family that mainstream Israel could relate to managed to strike up a better relationship with the public. But on another level the lonely Halabi plight highlights the difficult position that the Druze in Israel occupy — many are loyal to the state and enlist in the army, but they don’t receive the same solidarity that they give to their society.