Amnon Lipkin-Shahak was a man of rare qualities, a friend and a voice of “sobering sanity,” Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz wrote on Thursday, a day after the IDF’s 15th chief of the General Staff died of cancer.
Lipkin-Shahak, who was twice decorated with the Medal of Courage and went on to a brief career in politics, lost his final battle on Wednesday, a day after he was hospitalized in critical condition at the Hadassah Ein Kerem medical center in Jerusalem. He was 68 years old.
“You were my commander, you acted as my teacher, and I allow myself to call you a friend,” the head of the IDF wrote in a letter addressed to Lipkin-Shahak.
The funeral was scheduled to take place at Tel Aviv’s Kiryat Shaul military cemetery at 3 p.m. on Thursday. Six of the IDF’s major-generals were to carry the coffin, and many of the country’s politicians were likely to attend.
Gantz noted that Lipkin-Shahak brought him into the Paratroopers Brigade, eventually moving him up the IDF ladder.
“Years have passed, and I’m visiting the same places you stood in when you were chief of staff,” Gantz wrote, adding that Lipkin-Shahak’s fingerprints were visible everywhere he went.
The values by which the late general commanded and led the IDF — “most notably [Lipkin-Shahak’s] basic integrity” — are ones which “illuminate the darkest corners” during hard times, Gantz wrote.
Lipkin-Shahak was a widely respected and beloved chief of staff, who later went into politics but failed to achieve his ambition of becoming prime minister.
In 1995, before succeeding Ehud Barak to become the IDF’s 15th chief of General Staff, Lipkin-Shahak had recovered from a bout of leukemia.
Recalling their time on missions together, including the bringing of Ethiopian Jews to Israel through makeshift airlifts, Gantz said he had consulted with Lipkin-Shahak many times since entering his job.
It was possible to “open my heart discreetly, knowing you understood what I said, and felt as I did,” Gantz wrote to Shahak, thanking his former commander for having the perspective “of a leader, equipped with both healthy cynicism and sobering sanity.”
Mitch Ginsburg and Elie Leshem contributed to this report.