Israelis You Should Know: Aharon Yariv

The Fellowship  |  November 3, 2017

General Aharon Yariv enters tent to sign ceasefire during Yom Kippur War, November 11, 1973
Israelis You Should Know: Aharon Yariv

Lived: December 20, 1920 – May 7, 1994

Known for: An Israeli general and politician, Yariv is known for being the architect of the IDF’s modern intelligence doctrine.

Why you should know him: Born to a Jewish family in Moscow, Aharon Yariv made aliyah (immigrated to the Holy Land) at the age of 15. When he turned 18, Yariv began his military service with the Haganah, the precursor to the IDF.

Once Israel gained her independence, Yariv served in the IDF as a field officer, commanding the Golani Brigade and serving as Israel’s military attaché in Washington, D.C. From 1964 until 1972, he headed Aman, the IDF’s military intelligence unit.

After the Munich Massacre at the 1972 Olympic Games, Yariv became Prime Minister Golda Meir’s counterterrorism advisor, directing Operation Wrath of God, which assassinated those terrorists responsible for the murders of 11 Israeli athletes. Yariv was portrayed in Steven Spielberg’s film Munich, which told the story of Israel’s response to the terrorist attack.

During the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Yariv led Israel’s military delegation. After the war, he was elected to the Knesset, serving as Transportation Minister and Information Minister, then retiring from these posts by 1977.

Yariv was brought out of retirement in 1990 because of his negotiating and communications expertise. Islamist terrorists had kidnapped dozens of children from a Jewish school in Ethiopia, and Yariv’s skills were needed in order to guarantee their release. The children were released, with much credit due to Yariv’s negotiations for a peaceful resolution to the situation.

When Yariv passed away in 1994, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin gave his eulogy. Upon Yariv’s death, Joseph Finklestone wrote:

“Israelis, so predominantly concerned with security and of knowing or guessing the evil schemes being concocted by their enemies, will always put him on a special pedestal for being the architect of the Israel Defence Forces’ modern intelligence doctrine and apparatus. His cool and meticulous collection of facts about the Arab armies, their strength and their weakness, the characters of the Arab generals and leaders and the use of both technological hearing and photographic devices, allied to dependable agents on the ground, provided the Israeli forces with immense advantages.”

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