Yitzhak Dreksler, who was seriously wounded in the 1973 Yom Kippur War and dedicated the rest of his life to commemorating the Ultra-Orthodox fallen soldiers, passed away Saturday afternoon at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, aged 67.
For the past few weeks Dreksler was dealing with a complication caused by the serious injury he endured, and his situation deteriorated. His funeral will commence on Sunday on 13pm, and he will be buried in Har HaMenuhot in Givat Shaul.
Dreksler served in the all-Haredi Nahal Haredi Battalion, and during his reserve service fought in the Armored Corps as a gunner in a Centurion tank. During the war, his tank was struck by a rocket in the Golan Heights, but managed to pull himself out the burning tank while suffering burns all over his body. After a prolonged hospitalization—including 70 operations and a long rehabilitation—he was acknowledged as a disabled IDF veteran with a 95% disability rating.
Caused a dramatic change
As an Ultra Orthodox who paid such a heavy personal toll on the battlefield, Dreksler became one of that war's symbols. He was one of the founders of the Haredi settlement of Immanuel, and spent his last years in the Orthodox town of Elad while dedicating himself to commemorating Haredi fallen soldiers. In addition he helped found the all-Haredi Netzah Yehuda Battalion in the Kfir Brigade, established in place of the Nahal Haredi Battalion, and advocated for Haredim to enlist in the army and protect their country.
"(Dreksler) was a yeshiva student who left his studies and his pregnant wife and went to serve as a reserve soldier to protect the country and the nation. Even after being wounded, he didn’t give up and encouraged other yeshiva students to join the army," tweeted Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman. "Those are our nation's heroes. I salute you," he added.
In a comprehensive interview Dreksler gave on Memorial Day for Israel's Fallen Soldiers eight years ago, he told Ynet about his struggle to commemorate and preserve the memory of the fallen soldiers of the Nahal Haredi Battalion whose stories disappear into oblivion in the Israeli public eye as well as amid the Haredi sector.
Dreksler said that one of his life's great victories was when the IDF and the Family, Commemoration and the Ministry of Defense told him they are planning to arrange for an appropriate commemoration for the fallen soldiers of the Nahal Haredi Battalion, just days after his interview with Ynet.
"I hoped (the interview) would help, but I had no idea it will be this fast," explained Dreksler. "I hope we are on the right track on our way to establishing an appropriate commemoration that would respect the memory of the fallen."
A one-man Commemoration campaign"Yitzhak Tovel, my god avenge his blood, received the Medal of Distinguished Service in the Battle of Baltim, where he jumped on a grenade to save his comrades," he said in the interview. "There are 13 such casualties from the ultra-Orthodox Nahal Haredi Battalion, and other Haredim who served in other Battalions and there is nothing to in place to commemorate them," he lamented.
Drexler was one of the first to join the Nahal Haredi Battalion.
"We were all graduates of ultra-Orthodox yeshivas without exception," he noted. "Not dropouts, but the best members of the sector," he said, reminiscing of days gone by.
"On Saturdays, some of the boys would spend Shabbat at the yeshiva. They used to come back home in uniform and be greeted warmly and hugged. That was the ultra-Orthodox experience of those days."
He is survived by six children—two of them military officers—and many grandchildren.