COGAT's Brig.-Gen. Munir Amar: His legacy lives on

Israel was shocked by the death of the Druze commander. His was a future lost.

NADEEM AMAR shares a moment with Maj.-Gen. Yoav (Poli) Mordechai at the ‘Run for the Light’ awards ceremony (photo credit: MAXINE DOVERE)
NADEEM AMAR shares a moment with Maj.-Gen. Yoav (Poli) Mordechai at the ‘Run for the Light’ awards ceremony
(photo credit: MAXINE DOVERE)
Brig.-Gen. Munir Amar, the head of Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), was killed March 25, 2016, in an Upper Galilee plane crash. Amar was a second-generation officer of the Israel Defense Force (IDF), the son of IDF officer Sabri Amar.
Then-defense minister and former chief of staff, Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon, mourned the loss of the general.
“Munir was the best of the best – an excellent fighter and commander with an impressive military track record, who served for many years in places where responsibility is taken and challenges are faced. He was a symbol of the covenant of life with the Druze community and an example for the youth enlisting in the IDF. He was one of those who paved the way for the community that came after him.” 
Ya’alon called Amar “the salt of the earth… Munir’s death is first and foremost a tremendous loss for his family, his friends and the Druze community. It is also a great loss for the IDF and for the State of Israel. May his memory be a blessing.”
“The IDF,” said former minister and family friend Tzipi Livni “is a moral army thanks to commanders like Munir Amar… It is said that there are talented people for whom only the sky is the limit, those who can move anywhere. That is how Munir was. His future was ahead of him. He chose to challenge the sky… Munir was not only the pride of his family and of the community, he was the pride of all of us, the citizens of Israel, the pride of everyone. May his memory be for a blessing.”
IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot eulogized Amar as “an outstanding officer who successfully took on a series of central roles in the IDF and left his mark.” He also expressed his condolences to the Amar family. 
Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai said he felt “shock and great grief” when he heard of Amar’s death. Mordechai, who worked closely with Amar, said, “I had the privilege of knowing a man who was head and shoulders above the rest, a man of modesty and values, who lived for the love of humanity and the land.”
Sheikh Maufak Tarif, the spiritual leader of the Druze community in Israel, cited Amar as an example to the younger Druze generation who “served as a moral compass for the community.”
Memorializing Amar in 2021, IDF spokesperson Cpl. Kelly Odes stated, “The late Brigadier General Munir Amar was for many years a revered IDF commander… The IDF appreciates and is thankful to Brig. Gen. Amar, who gave the best years of his life in service to the State of Israel. [His] service and contribution… will be remembered and written in military history books. The service and contribution to the State of Israel are appreciated and revered, serving as an example of the great relationship between the Druze community and the IDF, embodied by inspiring individuals such as the general.”
Israel was shocked by the death of Brigadier General Munir Amar. His was a future lost.
The life
Like most Druze families in the 1950s and 1960s, the Amar family was large – nine sons and five daughters. 
“My father loved all the children,” recalls Nadeem Amar. “Munir, the eighth brother, was especially close to him. He often traveled with our father to the military bases where he worked. Munir followed our father’s example. For him, the army – national service – was more than a duty; it was a way of life.” 
Young men were volunteering for the IDF, and in 1956, community leaders petitioned the government to make IDF service a legal requirement for Druze men. In the 1980s, defense minister Moshe Arens opened all IDF units to Druze soldiers, saying there was “no point to a special Druze unit.” 
“Its elimination was a great source of pride for everyone… It was the right decision,” says Nadeem.
The Amar family is a leading family in the Druze community. Munir Sabri Amar was born in 1968 in the northern Israel town of Julis. Sabri Amar, his father, who died in 1996, was one of the earliest Druze volunteers in the Hagana, the precursor to the Israel Defense Forces. His mother, Hana, the family matriarch, is well at 90. Even prior to Israel’s Declaration of Statehood, Sabri Amar influenced many in the Druze community to join in the defense of the emerging state. Sabri Amar served in the IDF for 30 years. His contributions were acknowledged by President Reuven Rivlin in 2017. Nadeem Amar, the general’s older brother, a respected attorney and former mayor of Julis, received the honor on his father’s behalf. Nadeem, Munir’s older brother, had completed his IDF service just as Munir enlisted.
Julis, one of the five major Druze towns in Israel’s North, is where Munir grew up and where he built his own family home. Munir married Nibal, a young woman from Julis, in 1994. The two had been friends since childhood. Together they had three children: Murad, the oldest son, continues family tradition as an officer in the IDF; Meera, their daughter, is a student at the Technion in Haifa; and Sabri will join the IDF during 2021. Nibal, who is a gourmet quality chef, lives in Julis in the home she shared with her husband.
“For our father, Munir’s graduation from his first officer’s course was one of the happiest days in his life. Of course, the whole family attended the ceremony. 
“I can still recall my father’s face – how proud he was to watch Munir receive his rank. He was not more than 21,” remembers his brother, Nadeem Amar. “He was always very proud that Munir followed his path.”
Munir Amar was initially assigned to the Herev (Sword) Battalion. As he rose in the ranks, he became commander of the segregated Druze unit. Even as he fostered the excellence of its soldiers, Amar simultaneously sought its elimination. He believed the separate unit was unnecessary and advocated for full integration of Druze soldiers into every unit of the IDF. As his career progressed, Amar was appointed commander of the Hermon Brigade, based along Israel’s northern border, and later, head of the Home Front Command for the Haifa area. In his last appointment, Amar was commander of COGAT.
BRIG.-GEN. Munir Amar.  (IDF)BRIG.-GEN. Munir Amar. (IDF)
Amar believed that military duties should run parallel to advancing education, and continued his studies throughout his army career. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Land of Israel Studies and his master’s degree in Political Science, both from Haifa University. To polish his English language skills, the future general took classes at England’s Cambridge College. Throughout his military career, he continued his academic work and was completing his doctorate at Haifa University at the time of his death. A scholarship in his honor has been established at the university. 
 Munir Amar became commander of COGAT in December 2015. Nadeem remembers how busy his brother was – learning, meeting with Israeli and Palestinian colleagues, trying to make the best decisions for both sides in Judea and Samaria – trying to make life easier. 
“He worked around the clock, touched so many, solved many problems, eliminated countless difficulties and organized things with great efficiency.” 
Munir met with the mayors and leaders of both Jewish and Palestinian towns, tried to understand each one’s needs, and make life viable for each side. 
“He felt that was his duty as head of Civil Administration.
“We were all shocked – not only his wife, his children, his mother, brothers and sisters, not only the community, but the whole country. Everyone who learned about Munir and the tragedy of his death was shocked. Only afterward did we realize how much he had succeeded and accomplished in a short period. People from all sides were deeply saddened. Most of the cabinet ministers, most of the defense cabinet and many from the business community came to mourn him and try to cope with this tragedy, this loss.”
Nadeem says Munir “was a great general. At the same time, he was a great father.” 
March 24, 2016, the day of the Elor Azaria shooting incident in Hebron, was clearly not an easy day. March 24 was also General Amar’s daughter’s birthday. She had asked her father to celebrate the occasion together with her then 85-year-old grandmother. The family gathered at Mrs. Amar’s home. 
“We embraced and said ‘good bye’ just after midnight,” Nadeem recalls. “We spoke for a few minutes at 11 in the next morning, planning to meet. It was our last conversation. By one o’clock that afternoon, he was dead.”
Munir Amar offered direction and encouragement to help others reach their full potential, to be good people and good citizens. 
“His was a life of pride and humility,” says Nadeem. “We had strong ties to one another, and shared concern about the future of the community and how the Druze should be integrated and involved in Israeli life. We believed from the depth of our hearts that education is the foundation of a good life and a good future. Munir and I – and our father – believed in sharing the goodness of life, doing everything possible to make a good life for all people, in every community, of every religion. Munir advocated for the idea of communities working together. He believed the Druze should be an example for other minorities. He was proud to have the community integrated in Israeli society. 
 “For me,” says Nadeem Amar, “Munir was not only a brother, he was my best friend. We grew up together, played together, went to the same schools and were very close, even as adults We met nearly every week to discuss family, social and community issues. I am really so proud to be his brother and am so sad that he is not here. I wondered how a way could be found to cope, to carry on. Munir’s life was so unique, so important.”
The legacy
Munir Amar held one of the highest ranks in the IDF.
“Had he lived,” says his brother, “I am confident he would have been one of Israel’s top generals. His idea, his dream, was to make life good for all in Israel. Carrying his legacy forward is essential. Even five years later, when I speak about Munir, it’s as though he were still alive. The question was how to commemorate his life and his dreams?”
The Amar family initiated the OHR Foundation to further General Munir Amar’s legacy of Zionism, education and good sportsmanship. The foundation’s name is the Hebrew translation of “Munir,” which in English, is “Light.” Through its scholarship program, the foundation follows the general’s example of promoting education. OHR provides grants to Druze veterans of the IDF or National Service enrolled in one Israel’s public universities or in a certified vocational program. Aiding the education of Druze students in their pursuit of academic and professional success helps them become educated, vibrant members of Israeli society. 
“The point is not only to get a degree,” says Nadeem Amar. “An educated human being gains understanding that the purpose of living is not only to promote an individual’s good life, but to also make ‘life good’ for others.”
The OHR Foundation sponsors a bi-annual run/walk/bike marathon (COVID-canceled in 2020) that has attracted thousands of Israeli participants of every background and several international contingents. Runners, walkers, parents with children in carriages, bikers and other competitors came to “Run for the Light” in 2018 to commemorate Munir Amar, who was an avid runner.
 “It is our duty to commemorate Munir, to talk about his life rather than his death, and carry his legacy forward,” says Nadeem, “The dream – the reality – must go on!”
To learn more about the scholarship program of the OHR Foundation, or to be part of the Run for the Light Memorial Marathon, please contact Nadeem Amar, at 052-635-8651.