Meir Har-Zion, the decorated IDF veteran whose commando exploits made him the personification of the Israeli military ethos, was laid to rest on Sunday near his home in the northern Jordan Valley settlement of Kochav Hayarden. He was 80.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon were among the dignitaries to eulogize him.
“Meir Har-Zion understood that the revitalization of our nation depends on the founding of a generation of fighters who will defend the state of the Jews with determination, and he saw this as a personal calling,” Netanyahu said. “His willingness to take upon himself the task of defending our country without reservations, and his immense courage that he displayed during moments of truth, will continue to serve as a model for the IDF and the entire nation.”
Ya’alon called Har-Zion a “living legend.”
“Very few people have shaped a generation of combat troops at a young age,” the defense minister said.
“Very few people laid the foundations of the Israel Defense Forces as we know it today. Very few people have served as a role model for heroism, courage and the willingness to sacrifice their lives.”
Peres said Har-Zion “knew no fear.”
“He educated a generation of combat troops and rescued the wounded,” the president said. “In one hand he held a scythe, and in the other a sword for defense.”
Har-Zion was one of the best-known members of the short-lived Unit 101 force of the early 1950s. As chief of staff, Moshe Dayan once called him “the finest of our commando soldiers, the greatest Jewish warrior since Bar-Kochba.”
Meir Har-Zion was born in Herzliya in 1934 with the family name Horowitz.
During the 1950s, when Israeli teenagers sought to prove their mettle – sometimes with fatal results – by trying to reach Petra, 40 km.
inside Jordan, Har-Zion, at 18, reached the ancient Nabatean site after three days of hiking with his girlfriend.
This made them legendary figures among Israeli youth.
Unit 101 was responsible for counter raids against Arab terrorist units. Har-Zion served in the unit as an officer. He was never promoted beyond captain, although he commanded units usually led by officers of more senior rank.
During a military strike against Jordanian soldiers and police on the Hebron-Beersheba road in September 1955, he was wounded in the neck and arm, with the unit’s doctor performing a tracheotomy under fire and saving his life.
The throat wound made speaking difficult for the rest of his life.
After he recovered, he helped establish General Staff Reconnaissance Unit (Sayeret Matkal).
Despite being a disabled veteran with limited use of one arm, Har-Zion fought in later wars. In the 1967 Six Day War, as a captain in the reserves, he saw action on both the Golan Heights and Jerusalem fronts, and used hand grenades to kill a Jordanian sniper in the capital’s Old City. In the 1973 Yom Kippur War he rescued wounded soldiers from behind enemy lines on the Golan.
In 2005 he criticized his former commander, Ariel Sharon, who as prime minister undertook the disengagement from the Gaza Strip.
Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.