Navigator Ron Arad, missing in Lebanon since 1986, promised in letters to his wife and daughter that he would come home again. Correspondence from Arad during his first weeks in captivity will air on the Channel 2 news program "Fact" Thursday night.
The letters, which the family is releasing to mark 25 years since Arad's plane crashed, were handwritten on pages torn from books the navigator's captors gave him.
Arad wrote the first letter to his wife Tami and his daughter Yuval, then 15 months old, on November 1, 1986, about two weeks after his capture by Shi'ite militant group Amal.
"To my dearest ones, Tami and Yuval," he wrote. "I am trying to forget you because every memory makes me choke. But you should know that I love you and you are apparently the only reason that prevents me from thinking about the worst thing of all .... I promise at least one thing. I will come back. A year, two years, I will never leave you again, even if I have to stop flying."
The letters remained in Lebanon for more than 20 years. Three years ago, photocopies were given to Israel in an exchange with Hezbollah, when the Shi'ite group returned the bodies of Israel Defense Forces reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, killed in July 2006, sparking the Second Lebanon War.
Back in 1986, Arad's pilot, Yishai Aviram, was rescued by helicopter. The fate of Arad, who was initially held by Amal, is still unknown.
Tami identified the handwriting as her husband's, but chose not to release the letters for publication until now.
"This year we are marking 25 years since my father's capture," said Yuval Arad. "After such a long time, it was important to our family to remind people that behind the pictures is a person, Ron."
Arad said her father's letters were a journal of his captivity in which he spoke "with complete, chilling and painful openness, and left us speechless."
Several lines in the letters were blacked out at the family's request.
In his correspondence, Arad spoke mostly to his wife and daughter, but he addressed some to his parents in Hod Hasharon, suggesting he expected that the letters would actually be delivered.
In an undated letter, Arad wrote to his wife: "Tonight I dreamed about you and it was great. We both met after work on the grass and we talked as usual, and suddenly I was with you again. To wake up after this was very hard, believe me, but it gave me a few minutes of happiness."