No longer waiting
Eli and Nadia Cohen's eldest daughter, Sophie Ben-Dor says she is no longer expecting any good news from Damascus. "I have a growing feeling that it is very possible we'll never bring Dad's remains for burial in Israel. I never imagined that after 45 years, this story would still not be over," she told Haaretz.
"The way things look, it is very far from coming true," Ben-Dor says. Moreover, she adds, top officials of the Syrian government have all changed, and "there are not many who know the secret of where Dad is buried."
Sophie reached this sad realization only in recent years. Shortly before former prime minister Ariel Sharon fell ill, he met with the family, she recalls. "I saw that it was really important to him to bring Dad's remains to Israel. I had the impression that he was in real pain over it," she says. "In the current situation, I don't feel there's anyone left to whom it is important, on whose agenda the task is still to be found."
Ben-Dor, who is almost 50, is the mother of Shira, 19, and the sister of Irit, 49 and Shai, 46. A clinical psychologist by profession, Ben-Dor says her memories of her father are those of the toddler she was when he left on his last mission. The smiling man who played with his little daughter, not the spy, the hero, the legend.
"I saw him very little. I have a set of tattered memories that I have gone over again and again and sharpened over the years. They are simple memories of a four-and-a-half year-old girl. I'm sitting on his and mother's bed, full of clothes, toys, laughter. Intimate moments between a father and his little daughter. There was a lot of simplicity there. And I don't have many memories. They are few," she says.
Like her mother Nadia, Ben-Dor, believes Israel did not do enough to close this wound. "There were opportunities, after the Six-Day War and after the Yom Kippur War, when they made prisoner-exchange deals, when we had Syrian prisoners. We don't understand why Israel didn't demand Dad's remains. As the years went by, we felt we were a burden on the defense establishment. They gave us the cold shoulder, they said we were making too much noise and should move on. Only in recent years have we been embraced warmly by Mossad chief Meir Dagan. There has been no news of my father for years," Ben-Dor says.
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