Avigdor Ben-Gal

Accessed 14-JUL-2018

Avigdor (Yanush) Ben-Gal [14 May 1936-13 Feb 2016] was an IDF officer who attained the rank of Major General, commanded the 7th Brigade, and fought on the Golan Heights during the Yom Kippur War.

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Avigdor Ben-Gal was born in Lodz, Poland with the name Janusz Ludwig Goldlust,[1] the son of Yakov and YOna and younger brother of Ilona. At the age of three, the Second World War erupted as the Nazis invaded Poland. His parents fled with him and his sister to the Soviet Union and arrived in Siberia. Following the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, his parents fled with him and his sister to the Soviet Union arriving in Siberia. After the Germans invaded the Soviet Union, they were allowed to travel south and reached Uzbekistan where they suffered from hunger. His mother died of typhoid fever in 1942, and his father was forced to bring Yanush and Ilona to an orphanage. The two finally arrived in Persia, and from there immigrated in 1943 to Palestine with the Tehran Children. (NB: A group of Holocaust survivors who traveled from Poland to Iran.) After the war, they reunited with their father and his second wife.

In 1955 Ben-Gal joined the IDF and served in the Armored Corps. After the Sinai Campaign he underwent officer training and served as the commander of a tank platoon. From 1962-1964 he went to France to study command and strategy. While serving as an Operations Office in the 7th Brigade, he drove over a mine during a patrol and his leg was injured giving him a limp ever since.[2] Because of an ongoing dispute with the brigade commander, Shmuel Gorodish, he was transferred to the 200th Brigade as an officer in the Operations Branch under the command of Yashke Shadmi and served in this capacity during the Six-Day War. During the War of Attrition he commanded the 79th Battalion of the 401st Brigade, which operated in the Suez Canal area, and then commanded the 7th Brigade.

The Yom Kippur War

On the eve of the Yom Kippur War, the IDF forces along the Syrian border included only a single armored brigade (the 188th). In light of the growing body of information about the possibility of war, the 7th Brigade was directed, by order of the David Elazar the Chief of Staff of Sinai, to reinforce the units in the Golan Heights despite the assurances of all of the leaders of the security services, including Dayan, who had adopted the intelligence assesments of a 'low probablity' of the possibility of war. This decision doubled the number of tanks that manned the lines on the Syrian front on the eve of the war. One of the brigade's companies commanded by Eli Geva was to drag the Galilee Bridge to cross the Suez Canal on the southern front. Contrary to an explicit order to leave the company in the Sinai to carry out this task, he brought it to the Golan Heights on the assumption that most of the fighting would be there.[3]

Under Ben-Gal, the brigade cintributed significantly to the effort to halt the Syrian offensive in the Golan Heights, which included the Battle of the Valley of Tears, until reserve forces could arrive at the front. During the war, after restoring the balance of power on the front and the removal of the Syrian army from all of the territories it had conquered in the Golan Heights, the brigade also participated in the invasion of Syrian territory and the occupation of the enclave.

Ben-Gal's command of the brigade during the war was highly appreciated by the IDF and by the public, with many of the fighters under his command receiving decorations, particularly Avigdor Kahalani, the 77th Battalion commander, who received the Medal of Heroism.

GOC Northern Command

After the war in 1974, Ben-Gal received the command of the Ga'ash Formation (36th Division) in Northern Command and was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General.

In 1976 he was appointed assistant to the head of the Operations Branch in the General Staff with the rank of Major General, and was one of those responsible for the planning and execution of Operation Yonatan.

In August of 1977 he was appointed GOC Northern Command, a position he held until 1981. His tenure as chief of command was characterized by growing tensions along the northern border, as the PLO headed by Yasser Arafat carried out attacks on civilians, firing Katyusha rockets at the northern communities.

In March of 1978, following an attack on the coastal road, the IDF launched its first major operation in Lebanin - Operation Litani.[4] After the IDF withdrawal, the Palestinians resumed their attacks and fired at civilians. Major General Ben-Gal has learned to respond firmly, indeed, the IDF responded by engaging the enemy with a long list of operations in Lebanese territory that included Operation Maskat, Operation Menorah, Operation Bloody Man[5] and Operation Defensive Shield. At a rally prior to the 1981 elections, Menachem Begin said, "Assad, watch out, Yanush and Raful are ready!"

In 1981 he completed his term as Norhtern Command Chief. He was later appointed commander of the 446th Corps in the Northern Command, as which he led IDF forces in the eastern sector in the First Lebanon War. In this capacity he was responsible (together with his deputy, Maj Gen Ehud Barak) for all the battles against the Syrians and for occupying all the territory in the eastern sector up to the Beirut-Damascus highway. During the advance, a force from the corps was ambushed near Sultan Yaqub and suffered heavy casualties, including a number of soldiers who were taken prisoner, and three missing soldiers (Zacharia Baumel, Yehuda katz, and Zvi Feldman). In 1983 he ran for the post of 12th Chief of Staff but in March 1983 Moshe Levy was elected to the position and Ben-Gal then resigned from the IDF.

After His Retirement from the IDF

Media Statements

Further Readings

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