Tonight – forty three years to the daring Entebbe rescue operation. Forty three years since the falling of Yoni Netanyahu. Rabbi Eliezer Iggra, today a Dayan (a rabbinic judge) in the Great Rabbinic Court, served in the 71st battalion of the Armored Corps in those days, and told me a few not-so-well known stories about Yoni:
- “One day, a new Battalion Commander arrived at our base in the Golan Heights. His name was: Yoni Netanyahu. Since that day, our world changed. Until then – if, for example, it was raining, all the soldiers were happy. We would sit in the tent and make cheese toasts. Now the rules have changed. Yoni said: ‘And what if there is a war in the rain?’. He used to take us out in wet, unpleasant training sessions on purpose.
- “Once, on Shabbat, a few of the guys, at night, had already finished all of the hot food that had been prepared for the entire Shabbat. A few of the cooks panicked and cooked another pot in the middle of the holy Shabbat, while desecrating the Shabbat. We, the religious soldiers, were furious and spilled out the contents of the pot. Yoni gathered everyone for a talk, for a discussion about individual and collective responsibilities. It was a very ethical, thorough and open discussion. A very important conversation.
- “We were in a new camp base that was named after him posthumously, Mahane Yonatan. There was no electricity back then, so I used to study Torah by candle light. Yoni would come to my tent often, not just to ask how I’m doing, but to converse. We sat for a long time and studied the Pesachim Tractate of the Gemara together. I still have that little volume at home, till this day. Today, I can no longer read such small print. When one says Yoni Netanyahu, people tend to think about the battle field, but I have a totally different picture of him in my memory: bending with interest over the Pesachim Tractate of the Gemara.”