Israel sent investigators to a psychiatric hospital in southern Israel on Thursday after the army received a tip saying that one of the unidentified patients was the soldier Guy Hever, who has been missing for 20 years, Israeli TV reported Sunday.
After a quick check, however, the officials determined that the patient in the facility in the southern city of Rahat was not Hever, according to the Kan report.
“The IDF is working tirelessly to solve the mystery of the soldier Guy Hever’s disappearance and will continue to do so until he is found,” the army said in a statement.
On August 17, 1997, Hever, then a 20-year-old sergeant in the Artillery Corps, left his post in the Golan Heights, wearing his uniform and armed with a Galil assault rifle, and hasn’t been heard from since.
Nearly every year, the army launches an investigation into Hever’s whereabouts, often uncovering bone fragments or other remains in the fields and forests of northern Israel, which are then checked against Hever’s DNA.
Yet in the two decades since his disappearance, no trace of Hever has been found, and the case remains shrouded in mystery and conspiracy theories.
“Over the years, much effort has been put into locating the soldier, which continues until today, in terms of investigations, searches and intelligence work,” the army said before launching a search last summer.
In 2015, the IDF sent divers to check the reservoirs near where he went missing.
The year before, the army set fire to minefields in the area to see if they would offer up some clue as to what happened to Hever.
The military initially resisted declaring Hever missing, though he now bears that official designation.
In the immediate wake of his disappearance, the army assumed that he’d simply gone AWOL, noting that Hever was slated to face a minor disciplinary hearing for missing a unit social event, the latest in a string of infractions, including a 21-day remand to base.
A woman living near Hever’s base — Camp Ra’am, or Thunder — outside the Golan Heights city of Katzrin said she saw someone matching his description on the day he went missing walking in the direction of Syria.
In the years since Hever disappeared, a number of theories have been floated as to his whereabouts.
Some surmise that he was kidnapped and spirited into Syria, where he is still being held today.
In 2005, a German national living in Israel was arrested in Syria, and claimed to have met a thin, dark-skinned man with perfect Hebrew during her interrogation. After seeing Hever’s pictures two years later, she wrote a letter to his mother, Rina Hever.
“I met your son, missing soldier Guy Hever, during an interrogation on May 3, 2005, around 22:00 o’clock at night in Damascus, Syria, with 90 percent certainty,” she wrote to the soldier’s mother. “Of course I cannot say 100 percent because his name was not mentioned.”
In February 2007, a previously unknown and possibly fictional organization, the Resistance Committees for the Liberation of the Golan Heights, released a statement saying it would free an Israeli soldier captured on the Golan Heights — seemingly a reference to Hever — in return for Golan Druze imprisoned in Israel. Nothing came of the statement, and it remains unclear if the Resistance Committees even exist.
“This is harder than grief. It’s something that is not resolved,” his mother, Rina Hever, told The Times of Israel in 2012. “I have not the shadow of a doubt that he’s alive.”
The army said it was “deeply committed” to saving lost soldiers and those being held captive, and that it will work “with all its abilities” to locate Guy Hever, but his mother remained unconvinced.
“They’ll tell you they’re losing sleep over this,” she said at the time of the official bodies tasked with finding her son. “That’s bullshit.”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.