Deceased Israeli War Hero Meir Har-Tzion Praised: ‘From Bar Kochba Until Har-Tzion No Warrior Came Close’
by Joshua Levitt
“Meir Har-Tzion, one of the greatest warriors in Israel’s history is gone… from Bar Kochba until Har-Tzion no warrior came close,” said Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett in an online eulogy of his “childhood hero,” who passed away at 80 on Friday.
“Generations of warriors grew up on his books, on completing every mission no matter the cost, solitary navigation in the middle of the night, retaliation missions, non-abandonment of a friend in the field, uncompromising demands, and the love of the Land of Israel,” Bennett wrote on Facebook on Friday. “May your memory be blessed, hero of Israel.”
Har-Tzion was a leader in Israel’s first commando force, Unit 101, which later merged with the IDF’s Paratroopers Brigade, but its exploits and Har-Tzion’s bravery in the unit and on his own has became the stuff of legend.
He was born in Herzliya, where as a teenager living in Kibbutz Ein Harod, he set out for a hike into Syrian territory with his sister Shoshana, and the pair were kidnapped by Bedouin and jailed in Damascus for several weeks.
In the early 1950s, Har-Tzion trekked into Jordan to visit the ancient Nabataean city of Petra. Several hikers followed in his footsteps and were killed in the process, the Times of Israel said on Friday.
On December 23, 1954, his sister Shoshana and Oded Weigmeister were killed while hiking in the Judean Desert. Har-Tzion retired from the army, and set out with weapons and three paratroopers to avenge her death. They snuck into Jordan, caught five men from the tribe that had killed the two Israelis, and killed four of them, leaving the fifth one alive to tell the tale.
Upon his return to Israel, Har-Tzion was arrested, jailed for 20 days and suspended from the military for six months.
In 1956, Har-Tzion was wounded, suffering a shot in the throat during a cross-border raid on the police station in Rahawa, but an emergency field tracheotomy saved his life.
Har-Tzion later helped found the IDF’s elite reconnaissance unit Sayeret Matkal and fought in Israel’s Six-Day War against Arab armies in 1967.
Other Israeli leaders also remembered Har-Tzion on Friday.
He was “one of the greatest warriors in the history of the IDF — an audacious, distinctive commander whose influence in molding generations of fighters and units was pivotal,” said Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called him “one of our greatest heroes,” a man who “was steeped in love for the nation and the land.”
“There was no one braver than he was,” Israeli President Shimon Peres said. “He was a legend already in his own time, and if not in his own eyes, then in the eyes of all those who knew his bravery.”
Moshe Dayan, the legendary Israeli military leader, once called Har-Tzion “the greatest Jewish warrior since Bar Kochba,” a sentiment that was echoed by Bennett on Facebook.