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January 13, 2014 10:18 am

Full Transcript: Eulogy by IDF Chief Benny Gantz for Former Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon

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Military medals of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Photo: Knesset.

Below is the full transcript of remarks made by IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benjamin Gantz at the memorial service for former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on January 13th, 2014.

“Arik, Commander; you were described by dozens of names and descriptions, but it appears that ‘Commander’ is the description that best suited you. Also here, on the hill where the first Kalaniyot of the season will bloom, we can remember in complete clarity the commander you were, despite the many years that passed from when you last wore a military uniform.

“And Today, when you return for the last time to the home you so loved, you are met by generations of soldiers who have come here to salute you for the final time, with your call of ‘after me’ still loudly ringing in their ears.

“I too have come to salute you, as the Chief of the General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, as a combat soldier, as a commander in the paratroopers battalion and in the IDF, that followed you, long after you no longer had ranks adorning your shoulders.

“I have come to tell you how the military that defends the Jewish people, that was so dear to you, will continue to do so, in your image and with your vision, for many more years.

“Pragmatism and boldness, creativity that leads to action, and determination are the guiding principles of commanders and leaders, traits that you embodied and reflected to your soldiers and traits that should be taught in every school for military leadership.

“Pragmatism and boldness: In the face of every challenge that faced our nation, it is these traits that make possible the wonderful fusion between warrior and dreamer, commander and scholar, a harvester that planted the landscapes of this country and that loved it fully and entirely. A worker of the soil, that catapulted the agricultural industry, the tough warrior with a membership to the Philharmonic, the bold thinker of battalion 890, with the motto – ‘We don’t return until we accomplish the mission’, and also the leader who knew to say ‘strength is determination but also restraint.’

“Creativity that leads to action: to the man that always found the most creative and bold solution to every dilemma, a man who maintained utmost creativity and flexibility while also maintaining clear judgment, all while often being asked to swim against the current. This boldness characterized every stride that you took, when you recognized the need to establish Unit 101. Your ability, to see in the light of day the threat of daily terror that required just and decisive action, inspired the very creation of such a unit.

“Determination- the ability to carry out an action in the most fitting way in light of the reality on the battlefield, to return to the people of Israel, in boldness and bravery, the feelings of peace and security, in any way possible, and always prepared for any eventuality.

“In all your years as a commander and leader, these are the values that led you. These are also the traits that in my view, are required of every commander in the IDF. You knew to pick out the best among the soldiers, the bravest of the brave, the future generation who became the most trusted, celebrated and senior symbols of the IDF- with your sweeping leadership, standing at the head. This military leadership carried you in your long political career, as a figure in the governments of Israel.

“I believe that there is no battlefield theory or strategy that does not carry your fingerprint. There is an endless amount written about the historic battles in which you fought, but there is one phrase that I believe accurately describes what you led- ‘the fighting spirit’. This spirit is what led every person who met you to want to serve under you. The spirit that was imbued in every soldier fortunate enough to be led by you, that was lucky to hear your confident and calming voice in the field radios, when everything looked hopeless.

“A commander can only prescribe to his soldiers the mission, the ‘how’ he can only demonstrate to them by standing in front of them in the battlefield, getting a direct view of what is happening.” This was what was written about you by Airam Azov in his book ‘Crossing’ when he described your role in the Yom Kippur war.

“In a discussion with commanders more than one decade ago, you said ‘I remember situations in which everyone around me lost hope, situations that were described as the destruction of the third temple. As a commander, in these situations I looked down, not above, into the eyes of the warriors around me. From their eyes I knew we had strength. That we had hope. That we would win.’

“These are words that can only be said by a commander who understands the significance of his mission and knows that he has no greater weapon than the people he leads. You were a commander that did not need to ask the common questions of ‘location’ on the radio because you were right there with your soldiers, standing in front of them. Many commanders have eulogized you since your passing and all have said that you were a man of extraordinary talents. Every place we marched, you were leading. Every target that we struck, you knew inside and out and were there with us. During a tour with you as prime minister and when I was commander of the Judea and Samaria Division, you displayed unparalleled knowledge of the area, of the challenges I faced and features of the territory you still remembered from your time fighting there in the War of Independence.

“Your boldness in missions, the unbridled sense of security you gave your soldiers and the decisiveness in which you chose a course of action shaped an entire army, determined, prepared to face and overcome the enemy. An innovative and deterring military carrying out its greatest responsibility- victory in every battle and the safety and security of the people of Israel at home and abroad, and for our country, The state of Israel which you loved so much. The desire to influence, to contribute, to lead the state of Israel and reinforce the strength of the IDF led you in your political career. As Prime Minster, you showed unparalleled political leadership and determined defense in the face of horrific terror, during a time in which it was the most complicated and daunting challenge. With this leadership you gave the IDF commanders the feeling that before them stood a determined and experienced captain, a defensive shield to soldier and commanders alike. Your firm support of the IDF strengthened its soldiers and the military’s connection to its people.

“With your boldness, you never once abandoned the vision of Ben-Gurion. This vision, to which we are committed and dedicated to maintaining, and to which the IDF is defending. Numerous bases and military centers in the center of Israel will move to the south, to the new complex being built in your name, will help develop and strengthen the Negev, the IDF, and the entire State of Israel. All the future soldiers that will pass in the complex built in your name and memory will once again represent the vast influence that you will have on future generations.

“Arik, you were an unparalleled and heroic commander. Amongst the commanders in the IDF, a small number will continue to take on the honor and responsibility of national importance. I commit that they will be trained in the spirit you established and so exemplified. As the Chief of the General Staff, I expect them to lead and initiate, to be pragmatic, to pay attention to details, to plan and prepare to carry out their missions. I also expect them to understand that we are living in an region in which the only stability is instability, similar to the very instability and unknown they will face in the battlefield and to be able to make decisive and correct decisions to accomplish their goals. I expect them to be commanders that take responsibility and provide support, that take pride in their missions and dedicated to their people and determined to the carry out their role in protecting the people of Israel in their home and abroad.

“Dear Gilad and Omri, the entire Sharon family. Arik was and will continue to be, a building block and critical part of the foundation of this country. You, who were by his side for all these years, know that the love he had for Israel was passed down to his soldiers and helped created a generation of soldiers and commanders that know for what and for whom they are fighting.

“Rest in peace commander, knowing that we are here by your side. The land on which you built your home and established your family, the land you knew and the land for which you fought as a hero with your soldiers, you are returning for your final rest.

“38166, Maj, Gen. Ariel Sharon: warrior, commander and leader. In the name of the IDF and in the name of generations of warriors and commanders, in the past, present and future, I salute you with gratitude and recognition.

“May your memory be a blessing.”

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