One of the most influential figures in the development of the Israeli military industry passed away on Wednesday.
Major General (res.) Israel Tal, who oversaw the development of the Israeli Merkava tank, passed away at the age of 86 in his Rehovot home.
Tal won the Israel Defense Prize in 1961 and again in 1973, and coined the Hebrew phrase "the man in the tank shall win."
After a 1970 government decision to develop an Israeli battle tank in order to reduce reliance on foreign aid, the Defense Ministry founded an independent body that was given full responsibility to develop and manufacture the tank.
Tal was appointed to head the project – which is considered one of the greatest successes of Israel's military industry.
The general also developed the cylinder bridge – used by the IDF to cross the Suez Canal during the Yom Kippur War.
Tal, also known as Talik, was born in Israel in 1924 and joined the British army at the age of 18.
He fought with the Jewish Brigade on the Italian front during World War II, and a year later, in 1946, joined the Hagana.
Tal with a model of the Merkava tank (Photo: Amit Magal)
During the War of Independence, Tal participated in battles over the access road to Jerusalem, and commanded one of the Givati Brigade platoons during Operation Nachshon.
After the war, Talik climbed up the ranks of the IDF and during the Six Day War, he commanded the 84th Armored Division that occupied the Sinai Peninsula from the Gaza Strip to the northern Suez Canal.
Tal completed his IDF service, but later donned his uniform again and served as deputy chief of staff and commander of Southern Command after the Yom Kippur War. He was released from service for the second time in 1974.
Later on, Tal served as an advisor to then Defense Minister Shimon Peres. He returned once again to military service in 1978 and headed an IDF reorganization plan, which saw the establishment of a ground forces central command.
General Tal was honored in the Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor's "Wall of Greatest Armor Commanders" along with Moshe Peled, Americans George S. Patton and Creighton Abrams and German field-marshal Erwin Rommel.
When asked which of the existing tanks, in his opinion, has superiority in the battle field, Tal replied – the tank with the best crew is the one that will prevail.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said Tal was part of the "generation of founders" of the IDF whose "life's work was the State of Israel's security, the defense of its borders and the security of its citizens."
"His contribution to Israel's security is immeasurable," the army chief said in a statement.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak called Tal "one of the bravest and most influential commanders in the history of the IDF."
Barak added that Tal's "contribution to Israel's security will accompany us for many years to come."
Major General (res.) Israel Tal, who oversaw the development of the Israeli Merkava tank, and passed away earlier
Maj.-Gen. Tal will be buried in his home town of Rehovot on Sunday at 16:00. He will be given a military service.
Hanan Greenberg contributed to the report
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