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Remembering The Brave Yoni Netanyahu

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This afternoon, on a beautiful Californian sunny day, I spent over an hour in the darkness of a movie screening room and watched to documentary movie about the short life of Jonathan Netanyahu, known as Yoni; a life that was cut short on July 4th, 1976 while on a rescue mission in Entebbe, Uganda. The room was even darker for the tears of sadness that filled my eyes during the showing.

Follow Me: The Yoni Netanyahu Story website/Trailer:

To remind the readers, on June 27, 1976, an Air France plane with 248 passengers was hijacked by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the German Revolutionary Cells; The plane ended up being flown to Entebbe, near Kampala, the capital of Uganda, in Africa.

Shortly after landing, all non-Israeli passengers, except one French citizen, were released and the Jewish passengers were destined to be killed should the government of Israel did not meet the hijackers' demands to release fellow prisoners she held.

In the wake of the hijackers mortifying threats if their demands were not met, the government of Israel decided to act and not to submit to terrorists' demands. A rescue operation was planned in much rush and a lot of pray for its success. The IDF, acting on intelligence provided by the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, prepared the rescue mission details and logistics and Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu, a member of the "Unit," Israel's special forces commando unit called Sayeret Matkak, was assigned as the operation's commander.

The operation took place on July 4th, 1976, at night. Israeli Hercules type transport planes carried 100 commandos and equipment flew over 2,500 miles (4,000 km) to Uganda to face the unknown and having much hope to be able to rescue fellow Jews in danger. The operation lasted ninety minutes and 102 hostages were rescued. Five Israeli commandos were wounded and the operation's commander Yoni was killed. All the hijackers, three hostages and approximately 45 Ugandan soldiers were killed, also thirty Soviet-built MiG-17s and MiG-21s of Uganda's air force were destroyed.

The rescue was originally named Operation Thunderbolt, now known as Operation Jonathan, in memory of the Unit's leader, Yonatan Netanyahu.

Thirty six years have gone by and Yoni lives with us all. The question is why, when so many other Israeli heroes have lost their lives doing what is right, which is defending the Jewish nation in any way possible and needed.

One reason is that Yoni's brother is Benjamin Netanyahu, who is Israel's prime minister second time around; the other reason, that trumps the first one is that, as the movie projects, Yoni was a special young man and with his death he left us all wondering, had he lived, what would have become of him....?
The well done documentary tells Yoni's story from his early life until his body was brought back from Entebbe. Yoni's two surviving brothers, "Bibi" and Iddo, his wife from whom he was divorced, his girlfriend until he died and a slew of friends tell the human story of Yoni.

What I personally deduced from the film.
On the outside, Yoni was extremely handsome and masculine. He projected sex appeal. He behaved like an Olympian athlete, always pushing beyond the limit; one notch higher, faster or farther.

Born a leader who believed that charisma is a character and leadership is a commitment, Yoni lived with an internal war. As much as he wanted to serve his country and lead, he also had humanistic dreams and by his death we all were deprived to have witnessed his possible developments and accomplishments.

In his military duty he showed courage and much guts. Yoni led by example with great personal touch. The movie reminds me that then they had courage to rely on, the "follow me" instinct, and today they have technology to rely on.

I did not go to see the movie because I needed to know more about the Entebbe Operation. Rather, because I believe that we must remember those who instill pride and confidence in us, the pride and confidence we, as a nation, lost for 2000 years when we lived under oppression and suppression. Yoni brought pride and confidence to all whom he touched. His story gave me a great sense of loss.

If anything, with his death the Jewish nation lost a genuine patriot who loved his homeland Israel and Israel was in his blood.

We all need to catch the bug of the unconditional love for Israel Yoni was infected with.

I stand with all those who knew Yoni and his death left a deep hole of emptiness in their hearts.

May Yonatan "Yoni" Netanyahu's memory inspire us all.

The Yoni Netanyahu

Nurit Greenger sees Israel and the United States equally, as the last two forts of true democratic freedom and since 2006, has been writing about events in these two countries. Contact her by writing to Read more stories by Nurit Greenger.

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