Editor’s note: You’re not having déjà vu. The Daily Caller is re-running the following essay from last year because the Fourth of July holds deep meaning for at least one nation other than the United States: Israel. And as Middle-East tensions rise, the Jewish homeland’s mission of self-preservation has become one of this era’s most important stories.
Thirty-five years ago on July 4, Israel executed one of the most stunning hostage rescue operations in military history. But during the raid one of Israel’s greatest warriors, named Jonathan, was struck down on an airport tarmac in Uganda. Without understanding his sacrifice and the words he left behind, it may be impossible to truly understand the mentality of the current Israeli government.
When news of Jonathan’s death reached then-Israeli Defense Minister Shimon Peres, now President of Israel, Peres wrote in his diary that he broke down and cried. When Peres asked one of Jonathan’s fellow officers how he was killed, he reportedly answered plainly, “He went first, he fell first.”
“Against a peak of terror, which was assisted by the army and president of Uganda, at a distance of over four thousands kilometers from home, in one short hour, the posture of the entire Jewish people — in fact, the posture of free and responsible men all over the world — was straightened,” Peres declared at Jonathan’s funeral. “The most difficult moment of this night of heroism occurred when the bitter news arrived that a bullet had torn the young heart of one of the finest sons of Israel, one of the most courageous warriors of Israel.”
Jonathan left behind hundreds of letters to his parents, his brothers and his lovers, letters that reflect a wisdom far beyond his years. And these letters, especially those addressed to his brother Benjamin, are in some ways a secret decoder into the mind of the leader today’s Israeli government.
After finishing high school in the United States, where his father left Israel to work as a professor, Jonathan returned to Israel and joined the Israel Defense Forces. While in his first months as a soldier, he would note the stark contrast between civilian and military life, highlighting the sacrifice of serving one’s country.
“It’s extraordinary, the distance between soldier and civilian,” he wrote in a letter dated September 29, 1965, just after Rosh Hoshana, the Jewish New Year. “In town, people are having parties. In brightly lit rooms there is music, and people stay up until morning. I, too, was up until morning, the only difference being that I was lying on the ground on a dark cold night without a single ray of light to brighten by surroundings, alert to every suspicious sound and movement around me.”
Writing a letter after hearing his brother Benjamin, then a high-school student in the U.S., was in a fight after someone directed an anti-Semitic remark his way, Jonathan advised, ”There’s nothing wrong with a good fist fight; on the contrary, if you’re young and you’re not seriously hurt, it won’t do you real harm. Remember what I told you? He who delivers the first blow, wins.”
Jonathan’s letters also spoke to his remarkable abilities, including his unnaturally calm demeanor. “Evidently there are people who lose all sense of reality under fire and don’t know what they are doing, while others feel no changes at all. In any case, that’s how I felt — the same degree of concentration, the same sense of judgment, the same grasp of reality, and almost the same level of tension as I usually have on any other day,” he wrote after experiencing battle.