'Yoni died because of us; Yoni died for us'

PM, President, and MKs attend memorial service for Yoni Netanyahu 40 years after he was killed while commanding Entebbe rescue operation.

Shai Landesman ,

האזכרה בהר הרצל, היום
האזכרה בהר הרצל, היום
צילום: קובי גדעון / לע"מ

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara, and their sons Yair and Avner took part tonight (Tuesday) in a memorial service for Colonel Yoni Netanyahu, the Prime Minister's brother, on the occasion of the 40-year anniversary of his being killed while commanding the Entebbe hostage rescue operation.

The service, which took place in the Mount Herzl military cemetery, was attended by the PM and Yoni's brother Ido and his family, President Reuven Rivlin, former President Shimon Peres, Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein, other Ministers and MKs, hostages from the operation and their families.

Brothers Binyamin and Ido Netanyahu said the Kaddish prayer next to Yoni's grave before delivering speeches.

"Yoni deserves the truth to be told about him," Ido Netanyahu said, "that's the least that a brother can do for someone who sacrificed his life for his country and to save members of his people. We also must thank those who fought with him saw fit to write the memoirs in the book "Operation Yonatan in person", in order to set the record straight about what happened there.

"I'm only sorry the book wasn't published while my parents were still alive and had to endure the false attacks against their dead son year after year on the day when they visited his grave. But they also know that the truth is what triumphs, and the truth about their beloved son will eventually triumph," Ido added.

Reserve Colonel Shlomi Reisman who fought in the operation under Yoni, said at the memorial that "the heart of the operation, killing the terrorists and freeing the hostages, was our unit's job, and Yoni led us to success in this impossible mission. In the 36 hours of official battle protocol it was he who was solid as a rock.

"He stood tall against all the lack of clarity and lack of time, all of the hard questions asked by the soldiers and the officers, and there weren't always answers to those, and all the reliance by the government and Chief of Staff, who were counting on him to inspire confidence in the possibility of success," Reisman recalled.

Benny Davidson, representing the hostages at the memorial, said that "Yoni died because of us. I experienced guilt as a child and great anguish as an adult. It was only when I saw the monument in his honor, in the shadow of the ancient synagogue, that I found the new words: Yoni died for us.

"Yoni died and gave us life, Yoni fell in battle while exhibiting incomparable daring, bravery, leadership and self-sacrifice. Yoni fell at the height of an operation whose entire essence is declaring freedom for Jews in a faraway land.

"Dearest Yoni, I didn't know you, but since the 4th of July 1976 on every birthday I have I celebrate my freedom and mourn you passing. May your memory be blessed forever," Davidson concluded.