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IDF taps Oren Simcha to lead Nahal Brigade after predecessor’s sudden death

Days after entering his position, Col. Sharon Asman collapsed following a run due to a heart condition

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Col. Oren Simcha salutes during a ceremony on July 7, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)
Col. Oren Simcha salutes during a ceremony on July 7, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi named Col. Oren Simcha as the next head of the military’s Nahal Infantry Brigade on Thursday, after the previous commander of the outfit, Col. Sharon Asman, died suddenly days after entering the position.

Kohavi’s nomination was approved by Defense Minister Benny Gantz, the military said.

Simcha currently serves as the commander of the West Bank’s Etzion Brigade, which is responsible for security in the area surrounding the city of Bethlehem. Before that, he was commander of the Nahal Brigade’s reconnaissance battalion.

On July 1, Asman collapsed of heart failure and died while exercising on a military base three days after taking over as head of the Nahal Brigade.

Over the past three weeks, the IDF searched for a replacement before deciding on Simcha.

The military launched a number of probes into the circumstances of Asman’s death, looking into why there was no defibrillator on the scene, why the underlying condition that caused the heart failure was not detected in military medical evaluations, and other related issues.

Asman, 42, was buried in Tel Aviv’s Kiryat Shaul military cemetery. His widow, who is also named Sharon, thanked him for “wonderful years of love, support and friendship.”

Col. Sharon Asman, with his daughter Emma. May 17, 2018. (Gershon Elinson/FLASH90)

“Thank your for our two amazing daughters. Thank you for the conversations, the wisdom, the insight, the composure. Now everyone knows what we knew all along — how special you were, a rare combination of a man of spirit and a fighter,” she said.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi eulogized Asman as “an officer and a gentleman,” who was “professional and thorough, cool-headed and brave.”

Asman had served in the military for some 25 years and fought in Lebanon and Gaza.

Head of the IDF’s Northern Command Amir Baram said Asman was “a sabra — tough on the outside and sensitive on the inside. He always cared for his subordinate soldiers and officers, his colleagues and his commanders,” Baram said.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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