Nineteen years have passed. Nineteen years of longing since that terrible night when I heard of your death. Nineteen years of experiences in the army and in civilian life – experiences I could not share with you. I could not ask for your advice. You know Nehemiah, like in the old days, when I followed you in training and in battle, or when we would meet to discuss our service in the army and life in general.
I learned so much from you, Nehemiah. For me, and for many others, you were, as Natan Alterman wrote about Yitzhak Sadeh, the "teacher of the commanders." In your backpack you carried all the characteristics that represented all that is noble, good and worthy in our lives. It was not just your ability to set a personal example for you subordinates and commanders; it was also your ability to take responsibility, lead and act professionally and gallantly, with humanity and dignity.
You were a noble man, Nehemiah - a man of rare humility, a role model for the soldiers who followed you. With quiet leadership you knew how to explain to your soldiers where they erred and how they can improve. You always demanded that they examine themselves first.
I always saw in you, Nehemiah, the beautiful Israeli; a man of the earth in love with this land; the descendent of a prominent family that put the contribution to the country at the top of its list of priorities, because you all had a sense of responsibility. You never hesitated to lead, set the bar higher and act according to your conscience. And you did it all patiently and courageously – in a way that taught me and many others that the long route is actually the shortest one.
Nineteen years have passed, Nehemiah. Often, before making a decision that may affect the lives of many people among us, I ask myself, 'What would Nehemiah have done?' Before you died, it was simple. Your door was always open to me. You never hesitated to pass on your experience and wisdom to others, because you understood that your vast knowledge belonged to everyone and must be passed on from commander to subordinate.
When I think of you, Nehemiah, I recall David Ben-Gurion's words at the Command and Staff College on October 27, 1960: "There is a moral necessity for the subordinate to have complete faith that his commander knows what to do; that (his commander) is a responsible man who treats his subordinate as though he were his son. In this sense, (the commander) must be a role model, not only someone who is familiar with the combat doctrine and the military profession. He must be a moral person, in the noble sense of the word, and stir - through his conduct and lifestyle – trust in the hearts of his subordinates."
This is the kind of man you were, Nehemiah. We miss you so much.
Nehemiah Tamari (November 17, 1946 – January 12, 1994) was an Israeli major general (Aluf) and head of Central Command in 1993–1994. He participated in Operation Entebbe as part of Sayeret Matkal, and went on to command the unit. He later commanded the Nahal and Paratroopers brigades, and the Galilee Formation (91st Division). Tamari died when his helicopter crashed near Central Command headquarters.
Moshe Ya'alon is Israel's defense minister.