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.
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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.