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3,500 volunteers join search for lost toddler East Jerusalem girl also reported missing; police see no link (HA´ARETZ NEWS) 12/09/02)Source: http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=238978&contrassID=2&subContrassID=1&sbSubContrassID=0&listSrc=Y HA'ARETZ} NEWS SERVICE HA'ARETZ} NEWS SERVICE Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Some 3,500 volunteers yesterday joined police in a search for missing 22-month-old Hodaya Kedem-Pimstein, who was last seen by her father at his Kiryat Yovel home in Jerusalem on Saturday morning. Police say they have no clues to help find the girl, and they saw no link between the toddler´s disappearance and the that of five-year-old Nur Abu Tir from Umm Tuba village in southeast Jerusalem.

Hodaya´s parents are separated and she was with her father, Eli, on Saturday morning. He said he last saw her while she was watching TV in the living room and he went to the bathroom. When he came back she was gone. Police carefully questioned the computer expert on Saturday and yesterday but they said he stuck to his story and offered to take a polygraph test to remove any doubts.

The police removed his home computer to check if it contained information that could provide a clue to the girl´s disappearance, but by yesterday evening police said there was nothing to show the father was to blame. "Eli is taking all responsibility for the disappearance. She was in his hands. He knows everyone blames him, and regards her disappearance as his responsibility," said relatives, who were clearly sympathetic to the father´s distress.

Reward, not revenge

The girl´s mother, Ronni Kedem, spent yesterday in the vicinity of the police field command in Kiryat Yovel, clutching one of her missing daughter´s teddy bears. She appeared in radio broadcast and last night on television, saying that in consultation with the police she was offering a "substantial" reward for her daughter´s return, and that whoever returns the child will not be questioned or prosecuted. "We don´t want vengeance, all we want is Hodaya back," she said.

On Saturday night police were saying there was no evidence of criminal or terrorist involvement, but by last night they were suggesting that the girl might have been taken from the yard of her father´s house. There was no explanation as to how an 85 centimeter tall girl could open the iron gate to the yard, nor was there an explanation how she was not spotted by any neighbors in the quiet residential street.

In addition to the searches, which covered the open areas of the neighborhood as well as abandoned apartments, garbage containers, sewage lines and caves, police were pulling files on known pedophiles with a predilection for small children. In addition, the Shin Bet and the Immigration Police were involved in the investigation. Earlier this fall, a Colombian foreign worker kidnapped a child in her care from a northern Tel Aviv suburb, but that disappearance was resolved within the day.


Among those taking part in the search for the missing girl were Jerusalem rabbis Ovadia Yosef and Yitzhak Kedouri, who both tried reaching the mother to offer their prayers, as well as para- psychologists, who called in their intuitions to the police.

The para-psychologists´ involvement led to rumors as well as false leads. At one point, patrol cars were sent to a Kiryat Yovel address to look for a "blond woman with a ponytail." In another case, police and volunteers in jeeps were sent to the desert.

Last night, volunteers from Zaka, the volunteer group that collects body parts at the scenes of terrorist bombings and car accidents, swooped into apartments in the neighborhood where the girl went missing, on the basis of a para-psychologist´s tip.

"Para-psychologists and various mediums are calling us all the time. We aren´t rejecting any possibility. Anyone who can help is welcome," said Ronni Kedem. (© Copyright 2002 Ha´aretz 12/09/02)

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