Amnon Lipkin-Shahak (1944-2012)

Lt. Gen. (res.) Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, Israel’s 15th Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, passed away yesterday at the age of 68 after battling cancer. Lipkin-Shahak was born in  Tel Aviv in 1944, a few years before the modern State of Israel was founded, and throughout his amazing life, helped shape it into what it is today.

His military service saw him joining the Paratroopers in 1962, rising to the rank of deputy battalion commander for his brigade during the Six-Day War in 1967. During his career, he was twice awarded with the  Medal of Courage, one of Israel’s highest military honors. His role in  Operation Spring of Youth as a Lt. Colonel, the 1973 raid in Lebanon against members of Black September, the terrorist organization responsible for the Munich Olympics attack, is one of the most famous military operations in history (also forever immortalized in Hollywood by Steven Spielberg’s Munich).

In 1995, Lipkin-Shahak succeeded Ehud Barak and became the 15th Chief of Staff of the IDF, during a very important time in Israel’s history, with the peace process in full swing as well as constant suicide bombings from Palestinian terrorists. After retiring from the military in 1998, he was elected to the Knesset the following year. Over the next few years, in addition to representing Israel as a Parliamentarian he served as Minister of Tourism and later on as Minister of Transportation.

He is survived by his wife, journalist Tali Lipkin-Shahak, and five children.

Israel’s leaders had extremely kind words to say of Amnon, with his former colleague in both the IDF and in politics, Ehud Barak said in a statement he was an “exemplary example of courage, leadership and perseverance in the battlefield and in the diplomatic battle.”

Prime Minister Banjamin Netanyahu called him “a hero of Israel who dedicated his best years to the defense of the state of Israel….His heroism was evident in the brave way he conducted himself throughout his illness. Not for a moment did he ever lose his dignity.”

President Shimon Peres said “Amnon was a true hero who carried the torch of peace, a rare and exceptionally wise man. His students and soldiers saw him as a role model like no other, they trusted every word he said and people queued at his door seeking his wisdom, honesty and courage.”

May his memory be blessed.