3,500 volunteers join search for lost toddler East Jerusalem girl also reported missing; police see no link (HA´ARETZ NEWS) 12/09/02)
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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,"
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
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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