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March 14, 2019 1:24 pm

On Israel’s Memorial Day for Missing Soldiers, the Story of One Hero Who Never Returned From Gaza

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Graves of fallen IDF soldiers at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem. Photo: IDF via Wikimedia Commons.

Israel marked Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers Whose Place of Burial Is Unknown on Thursday.

The commemoration is held every year on the 7th of Adar, which in Jewish tradition is the date of Moses’ death. It was chosen because the location of Moses’ grave is also unknown.

The Hebrew news site Walla told the story of one of the missing, David Mizrachi, and his daughter Dalia, who was 11 months old when her father was sent to Gaza in 1948 on an intelligence mission. He never returned.

David Mizrachi was part of a special unit in the pre-state militia, the Palmach, called the Machlakah Ha’aravit (“The Arab Department”) or Machlakat Ha’shahar (“Department of the Dawn”).

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The unit, which was established in 1943, was composed of mistaravim, Israeli soldiers who pose as Arabs in order to infiltrate enemy areas and collect intelligence. Its members were almost all Jews from Arab countries, and similar units still exist today. The hit television show Fauda is based on an IDF mistaravim unit.

During the war, the 24-year-old Mizrachi was sent along with 23-year-old Ezra Horin to Gaza on an intelligence mission. There it is believed they were arrested by Egyptian forces, which then controlled the Strip. They were tortured and Horin was forced to sign a paper saying the two had been sent to poison wells.

They went before a military court and subjected to a two-hour show trial before being executed by a firing squad. Their burial place remains unknown. When Israel briefly took control of the Gaza in 1956 and then more permanently in 1967, attempts were made to locate their bodies, but all efforts failed.

Dalia Mizrachi has no memories of her dad. “I did not know my father,” she told Walla. “I don’t even have a picture with him. My life, my youth and adult life, were without a father. It’s a life with a feeling that something is missing, it’s a pain that can’t be dulled.”

“My mother didn’t know anything about what dad was doing,” she recounted. “She said he would sometimes disappear without telling her where he was, and didn’t tell her what he was doing or where he was going. We’re talking about another era, there was no financial aid for families of fighters of his type. When he would be gone for an extended period of time, she was left with nothing, there was almost no income.”

Every year, Dalia travels to Mount Herzl in Jerusalem for a memorial ceremony at the Garden of the Missing in Action at the IDF military cemetery.

“The fact that my father does not have a grave is very difficult,” she said. “I come to Mount Herzl and feel shattered. I don’t even have a grave to sit next to him, to talk to him, to tell him, ‘Dad, I grew up, I have children and grandchildren.’ If my father were alive, he’d be able to see his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

Mizrachi’s compatriot Ezra Horin reportedly met a friend in Haifa shortly before being sent on his final mission. “When it is permitted to tell the story, you won’t believe it,” he told her. “No one will believe it, but it’s true. And you know, we’re allowed not to go, it’s all voluntary. We are very few, fewer and fewer. Until now I’ve survived, but in our work we don’t stay alive.”

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