37 Years Later, Israeli Police Reexamines Unsolved Murder of 12-year-old Girl

Ten days after going missing in 1982, Nava Elimelech's severed head was found on a Tel Aviv beach, but no one was ever indicted

A missing person's poster for Nava Elimelech, 1982.

37 years after the murder of 12-year-old Nava Elimelech, the court approved the removal of her body from her grave and its transfer to the National Forensic Medicine Institute in Abu Kabir.

The police said that that this was done after the crime-fighting Lahav 433 police unit re-examined the investigation file. The police didn’t explain what led to the decision and whether new information had been received. A gag order was also issued against the publication of any details.

The police said that “removal of the body was carried out a short time ago in coordination with the family of the deceased and was transferred to Abu Kabir.” They also said that the investigation is being accompanied by the Tel Aviv District Attorney’s Office. At the movement the renewed investigation is taking place in the National Crimes Investigation Unit, without the involvement of the Shin Bet Security Service.

Elimelech left her home in Bat Yam on March 20, 1982 at 12:30 P.M. In a note she left her parents she wrote that she was going to visit a friend. Her older sister Efrat was the last to see her alive, at 3 P.M., at the corner of Balfour and Rothschild streets in Tel Aviv. In the evening, when she didn’t return home, her parents informed to the police, who began searching for her.

Ten days later two passersby who were running on the Tel Baruch beach in Tel Aviv saw a bag that aroused their suspicion, and inside it they found Elimelech’s severed head. Later other parts of her body were found on the beach, and the police determined that the murderer had dissected her with an electric saw and tried to scatter the parts in the sea.

The then-Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Rafael Eitanat claimed that the act was perpetrated for nationalist reasons. Several suspects were detained over the years, but all were released and the file remained unsolved. The former commander of the Tel Aviv Police District, Avraham Turgeman, said the team that investigated the murder was one of the largest ever assembled by the police. “We were assisted by all kinds of experts - the forensic institute, oceanographers, psychiatrists and psychologists,” he said. “We worked in many directions, very intensively, but we didn’t find a thing. We couldn’t even determine the time of death with certainty.”