Monday, October 8, 2012

Yoni Netanyahu: A Hero's Journey

In late June of 1976, Uganda's President Idi Amin orchestrated a terrorist attack on Airbus A300, a airplane carrying 248 passengers, more than 100 of whom were Israeli or Jewish.  Israel responded by sending in an elite assault group, "the unit", led by Lt. Col. Netanyahu (Yoni Netanyahu, brother of Benjamin Netanyahu).

Yoni had a typical Israeli upbringing.  He'd have pillow fights with his brothers, play bows and arrows, and spend entire days roaming the countryside of Israel.

When he grew older, it was evident that he was a natural-born leader.  Just as he had protected his younger brothers as a child, he protected his brothers in arms.  He was injured in the Six Day War as he rescued a fallen comrade--shot in the shoulder.  Later, in the Yom Kippur War, he led a force that defended the Golan Heights.  He was the one who charged into battle, leading by example.  And his troops followed him, heartened by Yoni's fearlessness and determination.

But it was tough for Yoni to kill.  He wrote to his wife about how difficult it was to kill at close range.  Something that never goes away, just sinks in, deeper and deeper.  Writing on the battlefield, he sent her the closest flower he could find, a thistle, a prickly little plant that grows in Israel.  He sent it knowing it'd probably crumble long before reaching her.

The Unit, Sayeret Matkal, went to Uganda under the cover of night and arrived quietly just outside the Entebbe airport where the remaining hostages were being held.  Fearless, Yoni led the charge.  Automatic gunfire erupted as the terrorists realized the Israelis were approaching.  Yoni never hesitated.  His courage emboldened the members of the Unit as the ran into the line of fire.

In the midst of the flashes of gunfire, someone noticed that Yoni had fallen.

The next day, all of the hostages were returned to Israel.  There were no casualties, save one.  The Israeli news reported that a single Israeli officer had died in the rescue operation.

Somewhere, Benjamin Netanyahu was listening to the news and wondered, "Why did they say one officer was killed?"  Later, he'd learn that it was his brother.  And so the duty fell to him to inform his parents.  He says hearing his mother's scream was far worse than when he heard the news of his brother's death.

Thanks to Yoni, Uganda rejected its evil President Idi Amin.  Uganda might now be a radical Islamist state if it wasn't for Yoni.  And the people of Uganda have tried to atone for what happened by sending topsoil to Israel.

As Iran moves now to destroy Israel, just like so many others in the past, perhaps Yoni's brother will be the one to free Iran from its evil leadership.  Perhaps HaShem will use a small group of warriors to bring about immense good for the world.

Here's some clippings from Yoni's personal correspondence (Wikipedia):

Letter to his parents, March 6, 1969:
"In another week I'll be 23. On me, on us, the young men of Israel, rests the duty of keeping our country safe. This is a heavy responsibility, which matures us early... I do not regret what I have done and what I'm about to do. I'm convinced that what I am doing is right. I believe in myself, in my country and in my future"[3]:121
Letter to his brother Benjamin, Dec. 2, 1973:
"We're preparing for war, and it's hard to know what to expect. What I'm positive of is that there will be a next round, and others after that. But I would rather opt for living here in continual battle than for becoming part of the wandering Jewish people. Any compromise will simply hasten the end. As I don't intend to tell my grandchildren about the Jewish State in the twentieth century as a mere brief and transient episode in thousands of years of wandering, I intend to hold on here with all my might."[3]:230
Letter to his parents, April 13, 1974:
"I have no real girl friend at the moment. My last romance is over, and as I don't have time to run around anyway, it looks as if I'll remain on my own for the time being. . . On the whole, I've nothing to complain of. I'm up to my neck in my army work, and during leaves I move about a lot in our lovely land.
The whole world marvels at the Inca and Aztec civilizations and such—and they do indeed deserve admiration. Nevertheless almost all of these came into being after the start of the Christian Era (not that this detracts from their value), whereas here it seems that the cradle of world civilization is all around us, everything dating back thousands and thousands of years. A few Saturdays ago I visited the Biblical Gibeon, and saw the remarkable ancient pool there (I'll take you to see it when you come). It's this pool that's mentioned in II Samuelin connection with Abner ben Ner and Joab ben Zeruiah, who 'met together by the pool of Gibeon' and let 'the young men arise and play before them.' And the country is all like that!"[3]:238
Letter to his girlfriend Bruria, Dec., 1974:
"I told you that I had lost my innocence and my blind faith in the eternity of love. And that's a pity—truly a pity, because I want to believe in it with my whole being. If I'm skeptical, it's not about now, but about the distant future. We are separated for too long at a time for us to be bound together forever. There's something hopeless and very sad about this feeling. You asked me about a child, and I said what I did because I'm not thinking that far ahead—because a child is the most wonderful creation and the final bond between a man and a woman (at least, that's how I see it, or let's say, that's how it should be and how I'd want it to be). And I'm not thinking that far ahead because I'm not convinced it's eternal. I only wish I could free myself of this doubt."[3]:252

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