PM remembers Lipkin-Shahak as 'a true hero'

Leaders pay tribute to Israel's 15th chief of staff after he succumbs to long battle with cancer at the age of 68.

PM Netanyahu at Amnon Lipkin-Shahak funeral 370 (photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO)
PM Netanyahu at Amnon Lipkin-Shahak funeral 370
(photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO)
Down to his final moments battling leukemia before he died on Wednesday, former IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Amnon Lipkin-Shahak showed the courage and conduct befitting one of the country’s greatest military commanders, President Shimon Peres said on Thursday.
“I came to see you at the hospital, and you looked the same as usual – in total control of yourself,” he recalled before a crowd of hundreds at the Kiryat Shaul military cemetery in Tel Aviv, where Lipkin-Shahak’s funeral was held.
“Without a drop of self-pity or concern, at this moment you worried about the people, the country, the future,” Peres continued. “‘I’m leaving, I’m not surrendering,’ you told me in your quiet, noble voice. There was never a tear in your eyes or sigh in your voice. This battle, too, you commanded yourself.”
The president among the masses of mourners who came to bid farewell to Lipkin-Shahak on Thursday. Among the others were Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, ministers and parliamentarians from across the political spectrum, and former and current brass from all branches of the security services.
Lipkin-Shahak was “a true hero,” Netanyahu said at the funeral. “It is no secret we had a difference of opinions, but I always appreciated his deep commitment to the state’s security.”
The prime minister lauded the country’s 15th chief of staff as a man who was “brave of heart” and a patriotic Zionist.
“His name preceded him,” Netanyahu said, noting that Lipkin-Shahak had excelled in every walk of life.
Addressing Lipkin-Shahak’s family, the prime minister – who lost his brother, Yonatan, in Operation Entebbe in 1976 and also recently lost his father – sympathized that there was no greater pain than the loss of a loved one.
“But further than this private pain, there is also the pain of the nation,” he said, stressing that a heavy sense of mourning had descended on the country following news of Lipkin-Shahak’s death.
In their eulogies, men like Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, who spent the better part of their adult lives in combat and burying friends who died too young, appeared genuinely shaken by Lipkin-Shahak’s passing at age 68. One of those men, former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) director Yaakov Peri, sat in the second row, next to Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, and wiped away tears for nearly the entire ceremony.
A former tourism and transportation minister, Lipkin-Shahak received a full military funeral, and six major-generals carried his coffin, which was draped in the national flag, to his grave.
Lipkin-Shahak first made his fight with leukemia known in 1995, before he became chief of staff. His career in army green began decades earlier, when he enlisted in the IDF in 1962, and that 36-year journey ended with his retirement as chief of staff in 1998.
Along the way, he was awarded the Medal of Courage twice – first as a captain fighting the PLO in Karameh, Jordan, and later as a lieutenant-colonel in 1973’s Operation Spring of Youth in Lebanon. In the latter operation, he led a group of Paratroop Reconnaissance commandos disguised as civilians in a nighttime raid on a PFLP base in Beirut.
He later fought as a deputy Paratroop Brigade commander in the Sinai peninsula in the Yom Kippur War. Ten years after that, he became OC Central Command, and three years later, the head of Military Intelligence.
Finally, in 1995, he replaced Barak as chief of staff.
Barak spoke of Lipkin-Shahak on Thursday as a former comrade in arms and a friend of decades.
Barak recalled meeting with him the night before Spring of Youth, expressing his concerns about the operation while they sat on a balcony in Ramle.
The defense minister described how they had set off in rubber boats toward the Beirut coast and returned separately, and the trust he had placed in the cool, steady command of Lipkin-Shahak – a man whose military and political career was closely tied to his own, and who he said had helped inspire him about the importance of finding a diplomatic solution to Israel’s conflicts with the Palestinians and the Arab world.
“Amnon went through life and among us as a prince. Amnon was a clear model of courage, in the face of enemy fire in the battlefield, against our enemies, and in all paths in his life,” Barak said, adding, “Amnon, I loved you, even though we would never have spoken like this when you were alive. I will miss you for the rest of my life.”
The last eulogy was given by Lipkin-Shahak’s widow and second wife, journalist and TV personality Tallie Lipkin-Shahak, whose words moved many in the crowd to tears.
“My love, my eternity, what will my life look like without you? Our time was short to begin with because we started so late,” she said. “I always want more and the best, but the best I already had – you. I already won the prize, you. I learned so much from you and taught you so much, I will be yours always.”
As she finished her speech, the clouds opened up again, and the rain began to pour. Arik Einstein’s song “Od Nipagesh” (“We’ll Meet Again”) played, and she sang along to the words: “We’ll meet again, and things will be good for us, it will be soon, soon the two of us will be together.”
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.