A Gentile Hero of the IDF

Stand for Israel  |  February 8, 2022

Amos Yarkoni
(Photo: wikicommons)

Born Abd el-Majid Hidr in a Bedouin village in the Holy Land, the man who would come to be known as Amos Yarkoni is truly an Israeli You Should Know. At the age of 16, he already joined a group resisting the British occupation of the Holy Land.

But when internal disagreements threatened the young Israeli Arab, he found shelter with Jews in then-British mandate Palestine. Meeting Moshe Dayan, he made contacts with the Haganah (the precursor to today’s IDF), which became ever more important as Israel prepared to fight for her independence.

As the 1948 Israeli War of Independence loomed, this gentile placed his faith in the Jewish people and their hoped-for Jewish state, taking up arms with Israel. Proving himself an excellent tracker, Abd el-Majid Hidr changed his name to the more Israeli Amos Yarkoni, and Amos Yarkoni would go on to astound his Jewish comrades.

Despite the exam being in Hebrew, which wasn’t his native language, Yarkoni passed the IDF’s Officer’s Course and became the commanding officer of the Israeli military’s Minorities Unit.

As Israel’s enemies in Egypt and Jordan threatened the Jewish state’s existence in the 1950s, Yarkoni was tasked with creating the Shaked (Hebrew for “almond”) Battalion of the IDF, specializing in tracking and counter-terrorism.

A combat veteran many times over, Amos Yarkoni was wounded many times. His body was full of both bullet and shrapnel wounds. His leg was badly wounded in an explosion. And in 1959, he lost his right hand. After recovering, Yarkoni’s citation likened him to his early Israeli friend and military hero: “If Moshe Dayan could be the Ramatkal (Chief of General Staff) without an eye, we can have a Battalion Commander with a prosthetic hand.”

Throughout the years, many Israelis did not know that this hero of the IDF wasn’t Jewish, even when he, in middle age, served on the Sinai Front during the victorious Six-Day War of 1967.

But when Amos Yarkoni passed away in 1991 and tradition prevented this non-Jew from being burying in the Kiryat Shaul military cemetery, the matter was soon resolved when those he had served with purchased a grave for this Israeli You Should Know, Amos Yarkoni, who is remembered for all he gave to the Jewish state.

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