Shalom Life | July 14, 2015

Mother of Missing Israeli: Just Let Him Come Home in One Piece

Avra Mangisto's mother lost her elder son three years ago, and doesn't know what became of another son; 'We don't know what to do,' the father says. 'We met with MKs, other officials, but the Shin Bet told us not to talk'

By: Danny Adino Ababa

Published: July 11th, 2015 in News » Israel

Mother of Missing Israeli: Just Let Him Come Home in One Piece

Photo: Reporters swarm around Mangisto's mother, father and other family members. "The cameras, the flashes and the questions of the journalists make it harder for her"

Credit: Reuters


On Wednesday evening, the prime minister's envoy on hostages and missing persons, Lior Lotan, arrived at the Mangisto family home in Ashkelon. The entire family was gathered in that small apartment, on the first floor of an old residential building in the Shimshon neighborhood. They were joined by Gabriel Tagbo, who has been accompanying the family since their son Avraham crossed the border fence into Gaza and disappeared. Lior Lotan whipped out his phone. On the line was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who told them he was doing all he could to bring their son home in one piece.

Avraham's mother, Agernash, is sitting in the living room and crying. "There isn't a moment I don't think about him and miss him," she says. "I'm waiting for that moment when he comes through the door like he used to. I miss him and want him to return to me soon. I want to hear his voice, know how he's feeling, hug him, have him close to me. I'm asking the prime minister to bring back my son as soon as possible. There's a lot of sadness and frustration inside of me from this situation. My pain is only growing stronger as a result of the waiting. Just let him come home in one piece."

The Mangisto family. (Photo: AP)
The Mangisto family. (Photo: AP)


The family is watching a video which shows their son crossing the border fence into the Gaza Strip, walking alone for several minutes. No one is stopping him, no one is calling him; he keeps walking until he is in the hands of the Palestinians. This happened on September 8 last year. Ten months have passed since, and the Mangisto family has no idea what happened to their son.

"We don't know what to do anymore," says the father, Haile Mangisto. "I've done all I can. We met with members of Knesset and other officials. But the Shin Bet came here and told us not to talk. Lior Lotan is helping us. We don't want much; we just want Avra back home. We're counting on the government and hope they do everything. This is what the prime minister promised us

The family says that visits and conversations with Netanyahu have done little to comfort them. (Photo: Avi Rokach)
The family says that visits and conversations with Netanyahu have done little to comfort them. (Photo: Avi Rokach)

The Mangisto made aliyah during Operation Moses, in the mid-1980s. At first they lived in Jerusalem and later moved to Ashkelon, to a small public housing apartment. Avraham, 26, is one of six siblings. His parents divorced three years ago, and since then the father has been moving around between relatives and places.

Avraham's disappearance is the second tragedy that has befallen the family. Three years ago, Haile and Agernash Mangisto lost their elder son Michael. "Michael starved himself to death," Ilana Kabada, Agernash's best friend, says. "Michael was an amazing child. He loved everyone, he helped people. Not just us, he helped everyone. Suddenly he stopped eating. For a year and a half he hardly ate anything. I remember one of my sons paid for a doctor to come to the Mangisto home to treat him. In the end, when he was dying, he was taken to the hospital and there the doctors had to declare him dead. The poor mother, my heart aches for her, crying all day. There is no day in which she's not crying. She has been waiting for her Avra for a long time. It's very difficult for a mother to lose one son and not know what happened to another. It's really hard."

Since his brother's passing, Avraham's situation deteriorated. "They were very close," says one of the neighbors. Friends speak of a guy who faded away, who just got worse. "He would wander around the neighborhood. Every now and again he'd sleep away from home. I remember him wandering around, looking for scraps of cigarettes outside. He was harmless, but during Protective Edge he was talking about going to Hamas and kicking their ass. During rocket sirens, he'd wander around, wouldn't go into the shelter. He was very kind, an introvert who didn't talk much, just wandering around. And then one day we heard he disappeared," says Darja, one of the neighbors.

Saba Warnkanch, 28, lives across the street. She describes the family as introverts, good people. "99 percent of the neighborhood is Ethiopian immigrants," she says. "It's a catch 22, young people who come to the neighborhood have a hard time getting out, it's very

“I definitely know him well. Like everyone, I heard what happened to him. It's simply a tragedy - how he crossed the border and how the Israeli government hasn't done anything so far, and even if they did, how they were able to silence this story so far."\

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