On Aug. 17, 1997, 20-year-old Artillery Corps sergeant Guy Hever left his post at Camp Thunder in the Golan Heights. His whereabouts have been unknown ever since, but his mother Rina continues to believe her firstborn son is alive and in Syrian captivity.
In a rare interview, her first with an American Jewish media outlet, Rina Hever discussed her sense of hope and her desire for President Donald Trump and others to assist in locating her child, who would now be 40 years old.
During meetings with politicians and State Department officials in the course of her second-ever visit to the United States, Hever is looking for “some information, some hint.” She believes Russia, as an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his forces, could have information about the whereabouts of her son.
“I think because of the relationship between the United States and Russia, [Trump] doesn’t know anything about Guy. And I can’t reach Trump; I don’t have any possibility of reaching and [speaking] with him,” Hever said. “But I am sure if he knew the story, he would have some ideas … to [deal] with the Russians.”
When asked for comment, the White House referred Kol HaBirah to the State Department. A spokesperson confirmed Rina Hever met with State Department officials but declined to provide further details.
Hever said she wants to approach other world leaders. “If [Russian President Vladimir] Putin would have known this story, maybe he [could] do something,” she said. “Even if it seems to be a crazy idea, but all the story of Guy is a crazy story.”
In the initial investigation after Guy Hever’s disappearance, it emerged he had refused to participate in a social activity organized by his unit, which could have subjected him to disciplinary action. His mother said that Israeli forces, including the Mossad, have no intelligence regarding her son’s location. Last year, the IDF finally renewed its search for him.
When she met Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister concurred with Rina and her husband that their son was likely kidnapped, adding he might be held in Syria, Lebanon, or Jordan, she said.
In a 2012 interview with The Times of Israel, Rina remarked that those looking for her son “[will] tell you they’re losing sleep over this. That’s bull****.”
She added, “If they could, they would claim that Guy Hever never existed at all.”
Today, she said those comments no longer apply. “I was, at that time, very angry,” she said. “I think the approach of the Israeli government has been changed,” and that the government genuinely wants to solve the case.
“We knew, as parents, that it doesn’t make sense that he would disappear without saying anything,” she said.
Growing up, Hever never saw signs of a son who would go missing. “He is a very intelligent boy, very modest,” she said. “He didn’t want to participate in some social party.”
She added, “But the army is the army and they were a little bit angry about him and this is the story of him disappearing … Nobody from the sky took him, so he has to be somewhere.”
For Rina, the only place Guy could have gone to is Syria, as opposed to somewhere like Egypt or Gaza. “The Middle East, even though it’s a crazy place, there’s illogical links,” she said. She is convinced his is in “the North.”
Hassan Nasrallah, head of the terrorist group Hezbollah in Lebanon, publicly declared that her son is not under his control, and “he would’ve been very happy if he had Guy in his hands,” said Hever. “This is the mentality of Nasrallah.” If her son is in Syrian hands, however, it would not be the first time Syria has quietly held captives; this adds to Hever’s sense of hope.
In 1978, two Germans traveling in northern Israel accidentally crossed the Syrian border. Syria denied their existence until Germany’s then-Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher canceled a trip to Syria to provide the regime with money and weaponry. The Syrian government admitted to holding the prisoners captive and released them to Genscher, who returned with them to Germany.
In 1988, Massad Abu Toameh , an Israeli-Arab, flew to Greece for a vacation and disappeared. He was held in Syria until his release in 2001.
In 2005, Marion Keunecke, another German, traveled to Syria and was captured and interrogated by Syrian security forces, only to eventually be released.
In 2007, Keunecke reached out to Rina Hever after seeing a photo of Guy for the first time, claiming she recognized him from her time in captivity.
“I met your son, missing soldier Guy Hever, during an interrogation on May 3, 2005, around 10 o’clock at night in Damascus, Syria, with 90 percent certainty,” she wrote in a letter to the soldier’s mother. “Of course I cannot say 100 percent because his name was not mentioned.”
Cases of missing IDF soldiers like Gilad Shalit, who was held in captivity by Hamas for over five years, gave Rina a new optimism, despite Guy’s story not being well-known like Shalit’s. While Hamas took responsibility for capturing Shalit, however, no one has taken responsibility for her son other than a possibly fictional group called the “Resistance Committees for the Liberation of the Golan Heights.” It remains ambiguous if the group exists.
What message would Rina send to her son, if he is alive and in captivity? “My son knows very well that we are looking for him,” she said. “I know him. And he [has a] very special, strange personality.”
Special and strange: an apt description for a case that will not fade into history until this determined mother finds the answers she seeks.
By Jackson Richman
Jackson Richman is the Capital Commentary and Op-Ed section editor for Kol HaBirah. Follow him on Twitter: @jacksonrichman.