On July 4, 1976, one of Israel’s most heroic missions proved successful—Operation Entebbe.
The operation saw a group of elite IDF soldiers travel under the cover of darkness to an airport in Entebbe, Uganda, where more than 100 Israeli hostages had been held for six days.
The mission was ultimately declared an emphatic success, as all but four of the 106 hostages were returned safely to the Jewish state. But one IDF soldier, the leader of the mission, was killed in action. That soldier was 30-year-old Yonatan Netanyahu.
Yoni, as he is often called, is remembered still today, and not merely because of his famous brother, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Yoni is remembered each year on the Entebbe anniversary, as Israelis and the Diaspora pay tribute to a hero who spent his life dedicated to protecting the Jewish state.
“This day changed the course of my life, that of my parents and of my brother (Iddo). It’s been 37 years,” Prime Minister Netanyahu said at a special ceremony held at the Knesset last year.
“Since then, my parents have passed away, but I will never forget the grace with which they bore their agony upon the death of their son. The threats against us have continued for the past 37 years.”
“Today I say – there is no place on Earth where the long arm of the State of Israel cannot reach, and will not reach, in order to protect the State of Israel.”
Following Yoni’s death, Operation Entebbe was retroactively renamed Operation Yonatan. The effect Yoni still has on Israel today, nearly four decades after his death, is an immeasurable example of how one man can touch a nation.