Source: Contributing Author

On October 16th, 1986, Ron Arad, an Israeli pilot tasked with navigation of a Phantom fighter, and chief pilot Yishai Aviram, were on a mission in enemy territory. Flying in the skies of neighboring Lebanon, they were to drop bombs on PLO targets. At some point, while launching one of these bombs, the fuze detonated prematurely, a one-in-a-million malfunction.

This type of bomb, weighing hundreds of pounds and exploding so close to the fighter jet, basically shattered it to pieces. Pilot Yishai testified that he thought this was the end. Co-pilot Ron Arad broke his hand, but came to his senses first, yelling that they were deploying. He ejected himself and Yishai, parachuting down to Lebanon, with hundreds of Amal Movement militia following the path both soldiers were taking towards the landing zone in the surrounding hills. 400 meters separated Ron’s and Yishai’s descent, which proved to be the difference between life in captivity and eventual death for Ron Arad and timely evacuation for Yishai Aviram, who was less injured and had a means of communication (a radio transmitter like a walkie-talkie).

Ron Arad was captured after militia found him hiding, while Yishai was able to direct a military helicopter to his location, whisking him away and back into Israeli territory.

Ron was tortured in the following years in captivity, for the purpose of learning IDF secrets; Israeli intelligence has never been able to pinpoint exactly what ended up happening with him. On May 4th 1988, the Israeli army was attacking the village Arad was imprisoned in, killing a family member of one of his captors. One theory is that he was executed in an act of vengeance, as the remaining family members assumed the military mission was an attempt to extract him, which it wasn’t. A second theory is that with guards gone, he attempted to escape, but was either re-captured, put to death or not able to survive on the run, being that he was weak.

Israel’s prime minister at the time was given a chance to release him early on, in exchange for prisoners that Israel held, along with a USD$3M ransom. He refused.

There was a deal on the table, but paying cash for the release of Arad seemed to be a line in the sand that the government was not willing to cross.

I tell you this story because it is a complicated one; it involves a cocktail of circumstances, which each of us faces in our daily lives, a combination of things that we have zero control over happening to us, coupled with sheer luck and our personal adaptation to them; our intentional will power and self-choice. The country of Israel ended up spending well over $3M, since 1988, in intelligence efforts to find Ron and bring him back. The conclusion that he died in 1988 only became apparent in the 2000s.

What can be learned from this story and applied to your life at this very hour:

  1. One-in-a-million events happen and might end up happening to you, for good and for bad.
  2. When taking risks, understand the cost of making fatal mistakes. Ron had a wife and daughter, who to this day still don’t have closure. If he is indeed dead, no one has come forth to explain what happened to him in those final moments or where his remains are buried.
  3. A closed mind, as had Yitzhak Rabin, then PM of Israel, who simply refused, as a matter of principle, to pay a sum in order to get Ron back, proved to be a fatal error. Open-mindedness requires the ability to take leaps of faith and be tolerant of ideas that are presented to you.
  4. Somewhere, in some weapons factory, was a person who did his job 99.9% right. His actions caused the fuze to malfunction, creating a chain of events involving thousands of people, who, from 1986 until present day, are affected by his lack of attention to detail.