The IDF's second highest honor, the Medal of Courage (Itur HaOz), is to be granted to Maj. Ro’i Klein, who was killed after jumping on a Hizbullah grenade to save his troops during the Second Lebanon War. The IDF plans to award 142 citations of bravery to IDF soldiers, officers and the families of those who fell in the Second Lebanon War.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi authorized the final list of soldiers and will be awarding 34 of the citations personally. The special citations include six Medals of Courage, 12 Medals for Distinguished Service and 20 Chief of Staff Citations. Four citations will be given to the families of soldiers who fell in battle.
The IDF had waited to grant the citations until all inquiries into the military aspects of the war had been completed.
“In the fighting, we saw the brotherhood of the fighters in many instances,” COS Ashkenazi said. “Everything connected to the rescue and evacuation of the wounded is deserving of note. These events will be spoken of in the future as well.”
The awards will be distributed in a ceremony on September 2.
Maj. Ro’i Klein Awarded Medal of Valor
Among those being awarded the Medal of Courage is Ro’i Klein. Maj. Klein, who volunteered to lead his Golani Brigade Battalion 51 into battle, was killed in the line of duty on July 26, 2006.
While fighting for control of the hostile village of Bint Jbeil 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 were obstructed 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 overtook 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 his fellow soldiers, Elad Ozeri, later said that shortly afterwards, when it was thought that Ro’i 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 and resident of the hilltop community of Harisha, 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 grew up, on what would have been his 31st birthday.
The Medal of Courage is the second highest honor bestowed by the IDF on its troops. The highest honor - the Medal of Valor - has been awarded only some 40 times in the history of the State. The last recipient was Brig.-Gen. (res.) Avigdor Kahalani, who commanded Armored Battalion 77 during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.