Former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot on Friday spoke with a combination of heartbroken pain and military determination at the funeral of his son, Master Sgt. (res.) Gal Meir Eisenkot, 25, who was killed Thursday fighting in the Gaza Strip.
Gal Eisenkot died after a bomb exploded in a tunnel shaft near soldiers in the Jabaliya camp in northern Gaza. He was rushed in critical condition to a hospital in Israel, where he succumbed to his injuries.
The usually stoic Eisenkot choked up throughout his eulogy, recalling a conversation with his son several years ago during which Gal said that he had missed his father throughout his childhood, when the elder Eisenkot wasn’t around much due to his role in the IDF. “I told you mom was there for you throughout all of those years, and that I was very proud of the close relationships you had built with your mother and siblings,” Eisenkot said.
“When you grew up, I marveled at your immense seriousness and your sense of humor… For you, excellence was a way of life,” said Eisenkot. “Gal, I promise that we will continue the campaign [in Gaza], fighting to strengthen the state you so loved, and especially so that it will be strong, developed and just.” He noted, “You would always criticize things that you disliked about what was happening here.”
Voice breaking, he continued, “Galush, love of our heart, I promise you that we will continue to be a unified and happy family, so that the great sacrifice by you and the other fallen will not be in vain, and we will be deserving of it.”
Wrapping up his speech, Eisenkot said: “I salute you, my beloved son. We love you forever — your father, mother and the whole family.”
The former IDF chief of staff is now a minister in the emergency government on behalf of Benny Gantz’s National Unity party and an observer on the high-level war cabinet leading the decision-making in the Gaza campaign.
He received the news of his son’s death while reviewing IDF operations Thursday at the 162nd Division’s headquarters in southern Israel, alongside Gantz.
Eisenkot said Gal was proud of his family legacy, but also wanted to make his own way in the army without relying on his father for advancement, trying out for a reconnaissance unit and advancing through the process without initially letting anyone know his last name.
Eisenkot said that when he met his son during last week’s truce, Gal was proud to have contributed to creating the conditions that helped enable the release of over 100 hostages — particularly the young children.
The seven-day truce in the last week of November saw 105 civilians released from Hamas captivity in Gaza, including 81 Israelis, 23 Thai nationals and one Filipino, in exchange for 210 Palestinian prisoners, all of them women or minors. Israel also allowed an influx of humanitarian aid into the Strip.
Still held hostage by Gaza terror groups when the truce collapsed were 137 people — 115 men, 20 women and two children.
Israel’s war against Hamas erupted after Hamas’s October 7 massacre, when some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing over 240 hostages, mainly civilians.
Several high-level officials and politicians from across the political spectrum were among the thousands in attendance at the Herzliya funeral, including President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
On Thursday, Israeli leaders expressed their condolences to Eisenkot and mourned his son’s death.
“Our hearts are broken. On the eve of Hanukkah, Gal’s candle was extinguished,” Gantz said in a statement, referring to the Jewish holiday of lights that begins Thursday evening. “We are all committed to continue fighting for the sacred mission in whose name Gal fell.”
Netanyahu eulogized Eisenkot as “a brave warrior and true hero,” adding, “Our heroes did not fall for nothing. We will continue until victory.”
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said, “May we be worthy of Gal’s sacrifice, and of all those who fell in this just war.”
Noting his decades-long military career, President Herzog said Gadi Eisenkot had “dedicated his whole life to Israel’s security, the IDF and the country and he and his family are now paying an unbearable price.”
“Gal was educated since his childhood on love for the nation and the homeland and acted in this spirit all the time, including when he was killed,” Herzog added. “Along with the entire nation, I embrace the bereaved Israeli families, whose sacrifice is heavy and unbearably tough, and pledge: We will continue to guard our people and beloved country, for them and ourselves.”
Opposition leader Yair Lapid shared a photo of Gadi and Gal Eisenkot embracing in uniform when the former was chief of staff and the latter was a conscript soldier.
הצילום הזה. החיבוק הזה. אב ובנו. שניהם במדים. שניהם חיילים של המדינה הזו. שניהם נענים לקריאה, מגיעים כשצריך אותם, עושים את מה שעליהם לעשות. גורלה של מדינה שלמה בחיבוק אחד. גדי, חנה, אנחנו בוכים אתכם. pic.twitter.com/1wzwUE3hSv
— יאיר לפיד – Yair Lapid (@yairlapid) December 7, 2023
“The two of them answer the call, show up when they are needed, do what they need to do. The fate of an entire country in one embrace,” Lapid wrote on X.