Majdi Halabi was laid to rest in a military cemetery in Usfiya Friday afternoon amid a throng of 2,000 attendees. His casket, wrapped in an Israeli flag, was carried by six IDF soldiers — his brother and father walking right behind.
The Druze soldier went missing in 2005 while attempting to hitchhike back to his army base from his hometown of Daliyat el-Carmel.
“This is not how I wanted to get Majdi back. I didn’t want him brought back to me in a box,” Fahmiya Halabi, the soldier’s mother, said at the funeral, YNet reported.
Halabi’s remains were discovered near the neighboring village of Usfiya two and a half weeks ago by Rahim Kurzi, a JNF worker. Kurzi was clearing burnt trees and other brush from Nahal Hik in the Carmel Forest, some two kilometers from the Halabi family home. The Institute of Forensic Medicine confirmed a DNA match on Thursday.
Prior to the funeral, hundreds of people, including many Israelis who took part in the search for the soldier, arrived to offer their condolences to the family. Among them was Zvi Regev, father of fallen IDF reservist Eldad Regev. Politicians — including opposition leader Shaul Mofaz (Kadima), Amir Peretz (Labor), and Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz (Jewish Home) — also attended the funeral.
The police and the IDF said they were still unclear as to what caused Halabi’s death, and whether he died near where his body was found or was dragged there after his death.
Maj. Gen. Haggi Dotan, police commander of the Carmel Shore region, said he expected the investigation to be “very long” and that “the seven years that have passed have certainly not helped preserve the scene (of the crime).”
Relatives of Halabi claimed he was murdered and that it was a nationalistically motivated crime. They disputed claims that he may have committed suicide.
Deputy Minister Ayoob Kara, also a Druze, said the evidence points to Halabi’s death being a murder. “Someone had to carry (Halabi’s) body to the place in which it was found. And what was a knife doing there if he hanged himself,” Kara said, according to the YNet report. “The family is furious over the attempts to take the investigation to a different direction.”
Ilan Ben Zion and Mitch Ginsburg contributed to this report.