From pioneer soldier to fighter for peace to hypothermia victim

From pioneer soldier to fighter for peace to hypothermia victim

Dov Yirmiyah, 101, fought in Israel's wars for 25 years, later joined Peace Now; was found dead at his kibbutz

Lee Gancman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Dov Yirmiyah (Syoffe / Wikipedia)
Dov Yirmiyah (Syoffe / Wikipedia)

Dov Yirmiyah, a 101-year-old Israeli man who died of hypothermia on Saturday, lived a storied life; having fought for the establishment of the state and later becoming a fighter for peace.

Yirmiyah served in the Jewish Brigade, on the side of the British during WWII, then fought with the Palmach militia, the Palyam pre-state navy, the Hagana pre-state army and finally the Israel Defense Forces over a 25 year period, and held the rank of Lt. Colonel, according to Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth.

When he did not respond to the calls of his personal caregiver Saturday morning on Kibbutz Eilon in the Western Galilee, paramedics were dispatched to his home where they found him non-responsive and attempted resuscitation. Yirmiyah was brought to hospital in Nahariya where he was pronounced dead from hypothermia. His body temperate at the time was 30.7°C.

His daughters said he was suffering from pneumonia and a heart condition at the time of his death. Although he died of hypothermia, they reported that heating in his home was working as usual and he was adequately covered.

The incident came two days after a homeless man died from hypothermia in the coastal city of Bat Yam, the first fatality in a series of incidents caused by the sudden drop in temperatures during the week.

Since last week, there have been four other incidents of hypothermia, as temperatures in many parts of the country dropped to freezing.

During Yirmiyah’s lengthy military career he most notably participated in the conquest of the Western Galilee, where he ended up living out his days.

He later ended up in serious conflict with defense minister Moshe Dayan, who had an affair with his first wife, Hadassah Mor.

After he retired from his military career, Yirmiyah devoted much of his time to peace activities, first becoming an activist in the Mapam party, one of the ancestors of today’s left-wing Meretz party. He also participated in efforts to aid Palestinian refugees and civilians in Lebanon, later joining the Peace Now organization.

“Yirmiyah was king of the world. He left us as a great man,” said Ehud Davidson, a long time kibbutz member.

“My dad participated in founding the state, and kept it going. He was seeking peace and justice and his fight for humanity was the essence of his life,” one of his daughters said.

He leaves behind a widow, three children, 12 grandchildren, and 16 great grandchildren and was buried Sunday on Kibbutz Eilon.

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