Engraved in Our Hearts
The Fellowship | July 12, 2019
February 22, 1932 – December 20, 1968
Born in Petah Tikva to parents who immigrated to the Holy Land during the Third Aliyah, Zvi Ofer grew up in Kfar Azar, which his family helped found. Ofer joined the Haganah (the precursor to today’s IDF) as a boy, first delivering Zionist newspapers, hanging pro-Haganah posters in the dark of night, and caring for the group’s weapons. But at age 16, Zvi dropped out of school to join the Palmach, which was the Haganah’s elite fighting force. It was as a soldier where he would make his name and help the Holy Land throughout his all-too-short life.
Ofer fought for Israel during her War of Independence. Because of his clear military talents, Zvi was picked for officer training. But when his old unit was preparing for Operation Yoav in the Negev, Zvi left officer school in order to join them. When the war ended, he had already attained the rank of sergeant.
After leaving the IDF once Israel had won her independence, Zvi reenlisted four years later. At first, he led a unit that tracked down Arab terrorists. Then he became a paratrooper, leading a platoon for Operation Kadesh during the Suez Crisis. His unit also helped take Sharm el-Sheikh, clearing the way for Israeli shipping that had been blocked by Egypt.
By the 1960s, Ofer was commanding a special forces unit known as “The Flying Tigers.” In 1962, Syria began bombing Israeli civilians in the Golan Heights, including Israeli fishermen on the Sea of Galilee. Ofer’s unit carried out Operation Swallow, which targeted the Syrian military. During the battle, Zvi charged the Syrians, firing at them with his machine gun, lobbing grenades, and yelling, “Surrender! You don’t stand a chance!” For this courageous action, he was awarded the Israeli Medal of Valor.
During the Six-Day War of 1968, Ofer’s battalion did not see much action, as their objectives, Bethlehem and Hebron, were taken without firing a single shot. After the war ended, Ofer was named military governor of both Hebron and Shechem.
However, Zvi wanted to rejoin a combat unit, and took command of the Haruv Reconnaissance Unit, which scouted Israel’s border with Jordan to comabt terrorist infiltration. While pursuing terrorists who had crossed the Jordan River, Ofer was killed. The terrorists had been on a mission to murder Israeli civilians, and were stopped before they could carry out their attack. Zvi was the only Israeli fatality in what was otherwise a successful mission.
Leaving behind a wife and four children, this Israeli hero was remembered at his graveside thusly:
“The figure Zvika, the country boy, the youth in the Palmach, the scout, the commander, and the instructor, will forever remain engraved in our hearts.”