Three months ago, the name Ilan Grapel came up often in conversation.
The Israeli "spy," who immigrated from the United States and served in Battalion 101 of the Paratroops Brigade, was arrested in Egypt on suspicion of espionage. Pictures from his days in the Israel Defense Forces, and also from his Egyptian travels, were shown on Egyptian television in a continual loop, along with interviews he gave after being wounded in the Second Lebanon War during battles in a village in southern Lebanon.
The peace-loving young man - who has been described by friends as a little naive, a little spacey, and above all curious - has been detained in Egypt for more than three months. Two weeks ago, a Cairo court ordered him held for an additional 45 days. The U.S. Embassy in Cairo reportedly contested the decision and asked that Grapel be released on bail, a request that was denied on the grounds that he was a flight risk.
In the absence of fresh news about his case - and perhaps also due to quiet pressure from U.S. authorities, who prefer to keep a low profile and work behind the scenes for his release - media coverage of the affair has dropped dramatically.
The Facebook group created to publicize updates on his situation and to lobby for his release has grown increasingly less active, and friends and acquaintances have also pulled back.
"Every once in a while, someone asks me, 'What's happening with him,' but that's all," said Ziki Ud, who met Grapel when the latter was in the IDF as a lone soldier.
"There's nothing, nothing," Ud mumbles while scrolling up and down the page belonging to the Facebook group demanding Grapel's release.
"People I know in the Foreign Ministry told me that Egypt supposedly changed the charges against him to a criminal violation for participating in illegal demonstrations, but that doesn't encourage me. Every time things there in Egypt change, I say to myself, "Oy vey, poor Ilan," Ud said.
According to Ronen Shnidman, a friend of Grapel's who stays in contact with the Grapel family in the United States, Ilan is not currently in an Egyptian jail and is being held somewhere else in Egypt.
"I don't know all the details, but what I can say is that he's not in jail," said Shnidman, who is also in touch with diplomats from the Egyptian Embassy in Tel Aviv. He said most of the efforts to obtain Grapel's release are being made by U.S. senators.
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