The Israel Dog Unit has two independent wings – One, that provides security dogs for vulnerable towns in Israel. More than 300 security dogs have been allocated by the IDU over the past 15 years of its existence. The second wing of the Israel Dog Unit trains and deploys specially trained SAR – Search and Rescue dogs and their volunteer handlers to search for and rescue missing people in Israel. Out of 4000 people who are reported missing in Israel every year, 100-200 are considered serious cases. IDU participates in approximately 70 searches per year. Every year, Israel adds 30-40 additional people to the list of missing people who are never found or recovered. Now, some 600 people that have never been found. Amazing for a small country.
Please excuse any typos that may appear in this brief diary of our recent searches as the author of the following article is exhausted and rushing to continue on the two unsolved cases.
IDU set off on the search for Aaron Shnederman on Friday Feb. 12, 16 (Lminyanam) After analyzing the case the unit assessed that he was not a high-risk case that justifies breaking Shabbat. However, there were certain risks that needed to be factored in. After the unit interviewed Aaron’s family it was decided that 2.5 hours would be allocated Friday afternoon to searching the beachfront and Central Bus Station areas in Tel Aviv. The unit generated and printed several hundred flyers with Aaron’s picture, and commenced posting them up in the areas that were being searched, with the hope that someone might have seen him and could help direct us to his last known location. Many calls came in to our hotline confirming that we were hot on his trail. Unfortunately our search crews left Tel Aviv empty handed. Little did we know that our goal to unite Aaron with his worried family was achieved. Aaron saw the posters featuring his own picture and decided to go home, after have been missing for a week.
NEXT TIME YOU GET A MESSAGE FROM US ABOUT A MISSING PERSON - KNOW THAT YOU CAN PLAY A ROLE IN FINDING HIM EVEN IF YOU ARE SITTING BEHIND YOUR KEYBOARD IN MOSCOW OF NEW YORK. AFTER ALL YOU COULD SEND THE PHOTO OUT TO FRIENDS AND FAMILY IN ISAREL OR ON FORUMS AND FACEBOOK AND SOMEONE CAN RECOGNIZE THE PICTURE AND LEAD US IN THE DIRECTION OF OUR MISSING PERSON WENT…
Tuesday we set off for a missing person in Kiryat Gat at the request of the Kiryat Gat police precinct. He was reported to be a high risk case. Just as we arrived with 6 dogs and 10 volunteers in Kiryat Gat, the missing person was found alive and well. HaLevai all of our missing people searches should have such a happy ending.
Thursday the unit returned exhausted to the Tapuach base and to Sde Bar, some of the new volunteers who came from Yeshiva David HaMelech and from Itamar’s Yeshiva Hitzim, were taught by the unit how to search and mark the territory being searched..
RETURNING EXHAUSTED TO LAUNCH YET ANOTHER SEARCH FOR SHAI BECKER
Thursday night Mira Tal sister of Yishayahu Becker pleaded with us to help her find her missing brother “Shai”, who left his girlfriend’s house in Netanya very depressed Sunday, thus missing for 5 days at the time we received the call for help. Together with Mira we plotted out 7-8 spots where we should search in Haifa. We determined that this was a high risk case, one which we assumed would even justify a search over Shabbat. We set out Friday to begin searching. We realized that if not us, nobody else would search in the necessary areas, cliffs, caves and wilderness that needed to be searched. We also realized that if he was wounded in the areas we planned to search that he could only survive for a few days without water and with wild animals in the vicinity. To our surprise our Rabbinic authority thought it best to search on Friday and then to return Saturday night after Shabbat,which we did.
In truth the unit really needed the rest Shabbat and we had all been invited to Lee-Ann’s family in Kibbutz Lavee to celebrate her birthday. The invite was made weeks earlier and Lee Ann’s folks prepared a feast for Lee Ann’s birthday Shabbat. Incredible hospitality. Not only did they host 10 hungry members of our unit, they had an additional 15 friends and family. Lee Ann’s dedication does not fall from the tree. Her family are good hard-working people who made Aliya from South Africa and who truly love Israel and their fellow Jews.
Recruiting a serious soldier – Aaron Rose- welcome aboard
On Shabbat we recruited Aharon Rose a Brtish Oleh from England who is currently in the army in the pre-service ulpan, and a welcomed guest of Lee-Ann’s family. After we learned that he was as crazy as the rest of us in his passion for search and rescue and after we learned that he was an expert map-reader and navigator we had him give a short class after Shabbat lunch and informed him that he was being drafted for the search for “Shai” Becker which we would resume Saturday night. We assured him that he would get to his base Sunday morning by hook or by crook. This assurance was also made to Shimon – that we would make sure he gets back to Ashdod in time to rest Sunday before college.
Shimon, who is serving his final year of his military service while studying in Ashdod, is one of our more seasoned searchers. He does not mind a good drink, nor does he mind running up and down hills and in the roughest terrain there could be. He is thorough - More thorough than most of our people. I still remember him picking maggots out of the wounds of dogs all night, one at a time, when he was 17, 3 years ago before he enlisted in the IDF. And make no mistake our guys and gals are far more committed or thorough than any police or soldier who would be involved in any of our searches. But don’t worry we rarely see anyone in the thick of things searching in the day time, let alone through the night. When I refer to “soldiers” I am not talking about our soldiers who are part of the IDU unit and live in Tapuach in our dorms as lone soldiers who dedicate their time when they are on leave from the Army. Tzvi, Baruch, Arye, Lee, Yitzhak and the others are all talented, dedicated members of the unit who perform over and beyond, when they get off from the army. While their friends from the army are out partying before they return to their respective bases and positions in the army, our soldiers are out on the cliffs and forests saving lives with our unit, returning to their bases after they have performed the greatest mitzvah of all – saving lives or bringing fellow Jews to a proper Jewish burial. May G-d bless them when they are on duty with the IDF and when they are off duty from the IDF and on duty with the IDU – Israel’s dog unit. May G-d bless them and keep them well and out of harm’s way. Am Yisrael needs them more than they will ever know. There is no other unit out there with people with hearts as big as theirs, with skills in scuba diving, snappling-repelling, dog handling, navigational skills, search proficiency, willing to look for all of the desperate lost souls of Israel who cry out for help.
We parked the trucks full of dogs and equipment in the shade in Kibbutz Lavee after returning from Friday’s search in Haifa. We made sure to detach the battery from the big truck so that we would not have any surprises Sat night when we need to leave. The batteries on our old big trucks always seem to die over Shabbat. At least the Fiat could charge and boost the econoline Sat night. We made it a few minutes before shkia- sunset. The guys rushed their stuff to the guest house on the Kibbutz.
MEETING THE CHIEF OF POLICE
We rushed to shul only to learn that none other than the new Chief of police would be sitting next to us under the watchful eyes of his body guards. Knowing that Israeli law places searches for missing people under the authority of the Israeli police and knowing full well the negligence and incompetence of the police on searches, I decided to take advantage of this heavenly gift. I figured it is all from Heaven and I would try and force a meeting upon the poor-fellow in shul. As he exited the shul I approached him and said, “You are religious and appreciate the significance of Pikuach Nefesh – saving lives. Discussing this subject surely overrides the tranquility of your Shabbat and of your vacation. Would you give me ten minutes to discuss missing people and the necessary reform that could save many lives. He answered, “sure, tomorrow right after shul we can meet. I feared that he was blowing me off -But made sure to be at shul in the morning. To my surprise, Roni Elshach showed, Israel’s number 1 COP actually showed up and gave me 15 minutes to chew his ear off with my missing people stories. He sat mouth agape, asking a brief question here and there. I gave him a booklet that I had written specifically on the subject outlining what the police and state need to do to upgrade searches. He took the book, looked at me and said,”I promise to study the subject. ”Maybe I am gullible, but I believe him. And I don’t believe in coincidences. One never knows, if anything will yet come of this “coincidental” meeting.
SATURDAY NIGHT OFF TO HAIFA
Saturday night comes, and off we go to Haifa. We set to meet Dudu Mayflower, our point man in Haifa. Dudu is a magical mystery man. Not only does he know Haifa like the palm of his hand, own a jeep and come out searching and navigating whenever we end up in the north. He also seems to know every cop and office south of Egypt. They – the cops -like him, listen to him and he is able to connect us with whoever we need to get to in the field. We set up to meet by the beach across from the cemetery. Lee sets up our make-shift command center, starts to brew coffee and basically does whatever is needed from coffee making, to driving, to navigation, searching, fixing the cars, walking the dogs to helping to rescue the missing people. I don’t know who is more diverse and clever – Arye, Lee, or the others. These are the type of soldiers that any commander would have to be crazy not to want at their side.
HAIFA’S BERMUDA TRIANGLE
Friday we had met by the cemetery. I thought we can have a nicer planning meeting near the beach. The cemetery is creepy enough. Not to mention our record of finding missing people dead near the cemetery right under a small Arab village alongside the “Siach Valley” that leads to caves and springs. I call it the”Haifa Bermuda Triangle” because so many searches end there with us never finding the missing person or with recovering only body parts. We planned to search between the beach and the cemetery and then through the cemetery, then further through the valley and up the cliff towards Mira’s home in Carmelite. Mira and Shai’s mom is buried in that cemetery.
Shai and Mira’s mom died when they were kids back in 73. They had a real rough childhood. They remembered being dragged to mom’s grave by dad after he forced them to wait all day when he would fish at the beach. The only thing Shai had left in life was mom in the cemetery and his sister’s family overlooking the beach and cemetery. Shai was also recently diagnosed with a fatal liver disease. We had reason to believe that Shai visited his mom’s grave on Sunday morning. We had good reason to believe he was in the area, alive or dead, or laying injured. We were right.
Shimon scaled up and down the cliffy hill – finding the body
Shai was found by Shimon near a tree half way between his mother’s grave and his loving sister’s home. He did not want to be a burden on his sister and her family and was living and laying dead over part of this past week in full view of his sister’s home and of his mom’s resting place. His sister heard a loud shout a few days ago. Who knows maybe it was Shai as he fell off the rock he was sitting on. Maybe he was there unconscious for who knows how long. The paramedic that declared him dead thought he could have been dead for a day or two, maybe three.
Our Guys then needed to do the dirty work to honor the dead
If that was not enough for one night - We quickly realized that the cops sent to the scene were not fit to climb up and down the side of the ridge. Our guys helped push them up the hill as necessary. The time was passing and they seemed clueless in extricating the body down the hill to the ambulance. Our guys asked me for the ok to get involved. The cops also got their ok for us to help from their commanders. Clearly we saved hours and prevented needless, unnecessary dishonor and desecration of the dead. Mira was waiting with her in-laws at the foot of the valley with me. I was doing my best to help Mira and the family to cope with the situation. I called in out rapeling expert to bring ropes and equipment to safe-guard our people and the stretcher carrying Shai. Yoel our local expert got to us in no-time.
By 4.00 AM the police and the ambulance were on their way to the pathologists at Abu Kabir. I made sure Dudu arranged that our newest recruit -Aharon would be driven by the police back to kibbutz Lavi. And Shimon was sent back to Ashdod by train.
THE DAY HAS JUST BEGUN AND THERE IS SO MUCH YET TO DO
Lee, Louis and Akiva went back to Tapuach to tend to our dogs at the kennels and to rest a bit, scheduled to meet us later in Beit Shean to continue the search for yet another missing person there hopefully to meet us at noon. Yoel and Dudu went home to Haifa where they live. Arye, and I head off for Migdal HaEmek to continue another search here and later to meet up with us and our people in Beit Shean for that search. Arye’s dad Gideon and Nachshon his son are eaer to meet us in Beit Shean or Migdal HaEmek. They also want to fulfil the greatest mitzvah in the Torah to save a life or the great Hessed to recover a body if G-d forbid the missing person is no longer among the living. That too, is no small matter to perform the ultimate act of kindness to bring a Jew to a Jewish burial. Let us not forget how many missing people are never found or who have their bodies eaten by wild animals in the fields. The speed of starting a search early enough could be the difference of life or death. It could also be the dofference between recovering or not recovering a body or nothing.
Never a dull moment in the IDU - Israel Dog Unit.
I assure you this is only a partial list of our activities this past week. I have not even began writing about our security dog department and training. We provide training for dozens of people and dogs to help secure their families and towns.
We need more volunteers, vehicles, dogs and funds. If you want to get involved with this unique mitzvah that is truly under the category of a mitzvah that will not be done by others, feel free to call me or email back 0544876709 , Thanks, Yekutiel
Special thanks this week to Gideon, Nachshon, Louis, Yeshiva Hitzim, Suchi, the kids form Yeshiva Dovid Hamalech, Akiva and Lee for earlier this week, and for last night to Yoel, Dudu, Shimon, Arye, Aaaron, Louis, Mira, Lee.
And let me not forget my dear friend Yonatan, a reserve officer from an elite unit who like many of our volunteers continues to help us even after his IDF service. He lives in Haifa and was happy to come down and help us in the search and in the recovery of Shai Becker.
This email is dedicated to our noble volunteers and our generous sponsors
This email dedicated to our volunteers and to our donors who sustain this magnificent unit of people who have taught me the true meaning of self-sacrifice and dedication to a mitzvah that would not be performed by any other unit, under these difficult conditions and circumstances. I salute you – the “crazy” volunteers of the Israel Dog Unit. Finally dedication and professionalism meet. Heart, skill and competency -Searching for your fellow Jew and defending your fellow Jew as if they were literally your biological brother and sister. A true inspiration to me and to every Jew.
CARRY ON and continue to save lives, from Chayil to Chayil, sanctifying G-d’s name and teaching the police and the families and all who meet you the true meaning of Ahavat Yisrael. I am truly proud of you Shimon, Aryeh, Nachshon, Gideon, Yoel, Suchi, Louis, Yonatan, Akiva, Lee Ann, Baruch, Laizer, Dudu, Lior, Ariel, Lee, Yitzhak, Adam, Yisrael, Itamar, Midrash Shmuel, Nativ, Pinchas, Devora, Donny, Aharon, Goldman, Nitai, Dovi, Tzvi, Yishai, Adir, Matan and all of the others who are there in the trenches when you are called upon.
With Love of Israel, Yekutiel (Mike)