Former IDF Chief Amnon Lipkin-Shahak
was laid to rest on Thursday afternoon.
Lipkin-Shahak passed away on Wednesday, after a long battle with cancer. He was 68 years old.
The IDF's 15th chief of staff, who was awarded two Medals of Courage during his 36 years in service, was buried in the Kiryat Shaul Military Cemetery in Tel Aviv, with full military honors.
As customary with war heroes, his casket was shrouded with the Israeli flag. Six generals served as his pallbearers.
President Shimon Peres,
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,
Defense Minister Ehud Barak,
IDF Chief Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz and the General Staff, as well as numerous officers who served with Lipkin-Shahak over the years, attended the service.
IDF Chief Rabbi Brig.-Gen. Rafi Peretz
presided over the service.
The casket arriving at the cemetery (Photo: Benny Deutsch)
Peres eulogized the former chief of staff, recounting their last conversation: "Your call to me was ominous. Your voice could barely be heard. 'It's time to say goodbye,' you told me.
"When I came to the hospital you looked as you always did. Composed, even now. You told me of your decision not to go on. 'I'm departing – not giving up,' you said, poised as ever. You commanded this battle as well and you were the one to decide it had ended… We said an impossible goodbye, parting with an embrace. It wasn’t a farewell to our shared path – your wish was that we keep going."
Peres continued: "You've given your life. To Israel, to the people, to the military. They were in your every waking moment and you never knew fear. You are a great champion of Israel – a country that has always faced battles. You've fought and you've won. But you never stopped searching for peace. You were a rare man… who served as an extraordinary example to us all."
Lipkin-Shahak's wife and kids (Photo: Benny Deutsch)
Netanyahu spoke next: "No one can feel this loss more than the family. But beyond the personal pain, there is that of the public. Amnon was one of our finest sons and he is bereaved by all.
"He was extraordinarily brave. A man of values and valor. He was a hero. He excelled in all walks of his life… He was one of those rare men who made their marks on all of us, especially in the IDF. His humanity shone through always… As did his commitment to achieving peace and security. He had a sense of vocation that I believe stayed with him until the very end."
The service (Photo: Nizan Dror)
Recounting their last conversation, Netanyahu said: "I will never forget that conversation. Amnon's voice was faint, but crystal clear. And he spoke only of Israel. Not of himself. Not of the illness. Not of the end, which he knew was near. Only of Israel. He was a true hero and that is how I – and all of us – will remember him."
Next spoke Barak: "Today we are bidding farewell to one of our finest commanders ever. We have lost an extraordinary man, a courageous commander, a true friend, a modest man who always looked everyone – from prime minister to a military cadet – directly in the eye. Equal before all and all are equal to him.
Gantz, Netanyahu, Peres and Barak (Photo: Moti Kimhi)
"I was lucky and our paths crossed over and over in different crossroads in our lives... I'm not sure he was happy with military life. But he rose to the occasion, especially in times of crises, over and over again… Amnon was always composed, be it before our enemies or before the disease, to which he eventfully succumbed.
"I handed various commands to Amnon and always knew – we were in good hands. It was natural for Amnon to join the efforts to find a way – any way – to strike peace. He believed in the two-state solution and knew that it required a commitment, a true one, from us and from our neighbors. That was his wish."
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen Benny Gantz eulogized him next: You were a role model for all of us and we, as young soldiers, wished we could be like you. You served in the IDF for 36 years, always in key roles; but even while serving in the highest ranks, you always remained modest. Your humanity never faltered.
"Your tenacity in operations and your concern for the soldiers' safety went hand in hand. 'Take a minute longer, just make sure everyone is safe,' you would say. Your leadership was an example to me.
"More than once, your clear vision and integrity inspired me. Wherever you are now," Gantz continued, "I hope you're looking down on us and seeing the generation of soldiers who look up to you.
"Lt.-Gen Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, on behalf of myself, and of IDF soldiers past, present and future, I salute you."
The last to speak was Lipkin-Shahak's wife, Tali. "My love, what will my life look like without you. In having you I won the greatest prize in the world. You made me a better person. I learned from you and taught you as well. I am forever yours."
Lipkin-Shahak is survived by his wife and his six children.
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