MK Gideon Ezra, the Man Who Found Nachshon Wachsman, Passes Away
MK Gideon Ezra (Kadima), the former deputy director of the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) who single-handedly discovered the whereabouts of kidnapped soldier Nachshon Wachsman, has passed away.
Ezra, 75, was suffering from cancer. His funeral will be held Thursday afternoon.
Ezra was one of the most experienced members of Israel's security establishment, having fulfilled numerous roles in the "Shabak" as the agency is called in Hebrew and other security organizations. He also had a long political career, and served at various times as Minister of Tourism, Environment, and Public Security. Tributes to Ezra poured in from the political establishment Thursday morning after news of his passing was released.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that “Ezra loyally served the Land of Israel throughout his life. His made significant contributions to the state, many of which must remain secret.” Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said that Ezra was “an Israeli hero who loyally served the state. He will be remembered as a brave warrior who served his people throughout his life. He was born in Jerusalem, fulfilled his mission in Jerusalem, and fought for the city.” Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that Ezra “for decades worked for the security of the state with bravery, strength, and unceasing dedication.”
Ezra was born in Jerusalem in 1937, where he grew up. In 1955 he joined the IDF, and in 1962 he became a member of the Shabak domestic security organization, where he learned Arabic and eventually became director of the organization's operations in the Ramallah area. In 1974, he transferred to the Mossad and was sent on a two year mission to Europe. Afterwards he returned to Israel and began again working for the Shabak, where he held several positions. In 1991 he became deputy director of the organization, a position he held until 1995. He then went into politics, joining the Likud and becoming a minister in 2003. He joined Ariel Sharon when the latter split from the Likud to establish Kadima, and in 2006 was appointed Environment Minister.
In 1994, after IDF soldier Nachshon Wachsman was kidnapped, Ezra conducted an investigation and determined that the soldier was being held in Bir Naballah, near Jerusalem, and not in Gaza, as top security officials had thought. On October 14, 1994, an IDF mission set out to free Wachsman. The Arab terrorists who kidnapped Wachsman executed him, and one IDF soldier, Nir Poraz, was killed in the fighting as well. Wachsman's remains were taken back to Jerusalem, and he was given a hero's funeral on Mt Herzl.