IDF Major Ro'i Klein Nominated for Medal of Valor

An IDF officer who threw himself on a grenade to save the lives of his men in the Second Lebanon War has been nominated for Israel's highest honor.

Hana Levi Julian and Hillel Fendel,

IDF Maj. Roi Klein zt'l
IDF Maj. Roi Klein zt'l

IDF Major Ro'i Klein, of blessed memory, has been nominated to receive the State of Israel’s highest honor, the Medal of Valor for heroism in the heat of battle.

Maj. Klein, who volunteered to lead his Golani Brigade Battalion 51 into battle, was killed in the line of duty on July 26, 2006, during last summer’s Second Lebanon War.

While fighting for control of the hostile village of Bint Jbil in southern Lebanon, Klein and his men were ambushed by Hizbullah terrorists. Maj. Klein led a group of soldiers and tried to attack the terrorists from behind, but they were stopped by a wall.  Klein then began treating one of the wounded, at which point a terrorist hurled a grenade at the group. Soldiers who survived the battle - eight did not - reported that Ro'i yelled out "Shma Yisrael" and jumped upon the grenade, absorbing the brunt of the explosion and saving the men around him.  A stunned silence overtake the men, and then one of them started shouting, "He jumped on the grenade! He jumped on the grenade!"  Though mortally wounded, Klein tried to continue to communicate by radio to his superiors.   

One of the survivors, Elad Ozeri, later said that shortly afterwards, when it was thought that he was dead, Capt. Itamar Katz, who took over the command, approached him.  At that point, Klein - in his last act on earth - raised his arm and gave his coded radio device to Katz.  "Maj. Klein always emphasized to us the importance of finding the coded devices of soldiers who were hurt," Ozeri said, "so that they would not fall into the hands of the enemy."

Klein actually saved his men twice in the same battle, Ozeri said: "At the beginning of the encounter, he saw a grenade that had been thrown, and was able to yell and warn the men in time."

The husband and father of two small boys, Ro'i Klein was an acknowledged Torah scholar, superb commander and an accomplished musician in civilian life. He was buried in Eli, the Samaria community in which he lived, on what would have been his 31st birthday.

The Medal of Valor has been awarded only some 40 times in the history of the State, and the award to Klein will be the first in 34 years. The last recipient was Brigadier-General (res.) Avigdor Kahalani, who commanded Armored Battalion 77 during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

The Medal of Valor is the sole medal that is bestowed by the Minister of Defense.