Israel on Tuesday laid to rest the highest ranking IDF officer to fall in combat since 2011.
Lt.-Col. Dolev Keidar (pictured) was killed on Monday along with three other members of his command unit as they responded to a terrorist tunnel infiltration along the Gaza border.
Two teams of Hamas gunmen emerged from the tunnels Monday morning not far from an Israeli kibbutz. Keidar and his officers were among a large force that quickly converged on the scene and ultimately killed all the infiltrators.
But not before Keidar and those with him were ambushed and their jeep hit by an anti-tank missile.
At Keidar’s funeral in the central town of Modiin, his widow Michal said tearfully, “It doesn’t make sense that you will miss our kids starting first grade, bat mitzva and weddings.”
Keidar leaves behind three young children.
The funeral was attending by a number of high-ranking military staff, including four generals and the former deputy chief of the Israeli army, Dan Harel, under whom Keidar had previously served as his personal chief of staff.
Harel said that when he heard his own former deputy had been killed “everything went silent. …I have no answer to this, only…a giant hole in my heart.”
Lt.-Col. Keidar’s sacrifice in battle once again demonstrates the remarkable way in which Israel’s top commanders lead from the front. In most armies, a man who had previously served as deputy to the military’s second in command, and who at the time of his death was head of the Officers’ Training Camp would never have been anywhere near combat.
But, in Israel, it is by no means uncommon for such men to personally lead their troops into battle.
Another example of this was seen over the weekend, when Col. Ghassan Alian, commanding officer of the Golani Infantry Brigade, was wounded while holding the frontline in Gaza together with his soldiers.
Col. Alian was released from the hospital on Tuesday and immediately made his way back into Gaza to be with his soldiers. “We are strong, and we will complete this mission,” said Alian, who as a Druze is the first non-Jewish commander of Golani, one of Israel’s most storied infantry brigades.
While Israel has paid a dear price in Gaza with 29 soldiers killed and hundreds more wounded by Wednesday afternoon, local media reports that, thanks to the leadership of men like Lt.-Col. Keidar and Col. Alian, morale among the troops is sky high.