Officer critically injured in 2014 Gaza war laid to rest
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Officer critically injured in 2014 Gaza war laid to rest

Maj. Hagai Ben Ari, who passed away Tuesday after being in a coma for 2-and-a-half years, remembered as ‘salt of the land, brave warrior’

Maj. Hagai Ben Ari, who was critically wounded on July 21, 2014, during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, died Tuesday, January 3, 2017. (Courtesy)
Maj. Hagai Ben Ari, who was critically wounded on July 21, 2014, during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, died Tuesday, January 3, 2017. (Courtesy)

Hundreds of people attended the funeral on Wednesday of an elite IDF infantry officer who was the most critically wounded soldier during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, hailing him as a “hero to all of us.”

Maj. Hagai Ben Ari, 33,died Tuesday after two and a half years in a coma. He was buried in the tiny village of Nov in the Golan Heights, where he had lived.

He leaves behind a wife and three children.

Ben Ari volunteered to join the Paratroopers Brigade forces sent into Gaza during the summer 2014 war between Israel and Hamas. He was already a captain at the time, and was head of training for the elite Maglan unit.

He was critically wounded on July 21, 2014, when shot in the head by a sniper, and never regained consciousness. His death brought the death toll among Israeli soldiers in the conflict to 68.

Former defense minister, ex-IDF chief of staff, and fellow paratrooper Moshe Ya’alon delivered a eulogy for Ben Ari at the funeral, saying: “You taught and reminded those of us who needed a reminder what it means to be a hero.”

He added that “the State of Israel, the IDF and the Jewish people are parting from a hero. You are a hero to all of us.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was not at the funeral, praised Ben Ari in a Facebook post Wednesday morning, describing him as “the salt of the land, a brave warrior and a respected commander.”

Netanyahu also wrote that, along with his wife Sara, he sent his “condolences to the family [of Ben Ari], in the name of the entire Jewish people.”

After Ben Ari was injured and hospitalized, he was appointed by then commander of the Paratroopers Brigade Eliezer Toledano — who also eulogized Ben Ari during the funeral — to command the Paratroopers’ most prestigious unit, the brigade’s sayeret, or reconnaissance battalion.

Ben Ari was given command of the battalion in a ceremony led by Toledano in his hospital room, where he was surrounded by his friends and family.

Then Paratroopers Brigade commander Eliezer Toledano appointing Hagai Ben Ari as commander of the Paratroopers reconnaissance battalion during a ceremony in Ben Ari's hospital room. 2014. (Screen capture: Channel 10)
Then Paratroopers Brigade commander Eliezer Toledano appointing Hagai Ben Ari as commander of the Paratroopers reconnaissance battalion during a ceremony in Ben Ari’s hospital room. 2014. (Screen capture: Channel 10)
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