Photos: The author expresses his sincere thanks to Eric Van Gilder of Van Gilder Aviation Photography for permitting the use of his photo of a former IDF C-47 that now resides in California. The other two images are from the author’s personal collection. The image of Aharon Davidi is from November 2002. The Bell AH-1 “Cobra” helicopter was at the annual SUN ‘n FUN exposition at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport in Lakeland, Florida. Notably, the IDF’s 101st Airborne Battalion carries the “Cobra” moniker.
February 12, 2012 — While the various written histories about the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) provide much valuable information, one person is sometimes missing from the texts. The individual is Aharon Davidi. A kind and unassuming man, Davidi served as a role model during and after his long and distinguished military career. On February 11, 2012, the legendary paratrooper entered the life hereafter.
Aharon Davidi was born in 1927 within what was then British-administered “Palestine.” In 1953, he volunteered for the Israel Defense Force’s new paratrooper branch. Due to Aharon’s prior paramilitary experience, he received a commission as a company commander. For nearly two decades, while Israel’s elite airborne armed forces matured, Davidi would be a key figure.
Davidi commanded paratroops during Operation Kadesh and notably at the battle of Mitla Pass in 1956. This mission incorporated the only IDF paratroop combat drop, the soldiers jumping from Douglas C-47s. Aharon repeatedly proved his mettle in action, earning the Medal of Courage.
Later, Davidi led troops in the 1967 Six-Day War. All the while he and his colleagues were refining skills, and honing assault and counter terrorism tactics. Eventually, Davidi rose to the rank of brigadier general and commanded the Paratrooper and Infantry Corps.
In the early 1970s Aharon Davidi retired from the military. After retirement, he completed master and doctoral degrees through the University of London. In 1982, Davidi founded Sar-El, The National Project for Volunteers for Israel. Sar-El is a nonprofit organization through which individuals from other countries, and Israelis residing abroad who must satisfy their military service requirement, may serve the IDF in supportive and non-combat roles or in nursing homes.
Throughout his later years the esteemed and revered Aharon Davidi maintained contact with military officials and troops. During an address, in June 2001, at an IDF base, Davidi warned of the dangers Western nations would face from radicals in the Middle East. His comments included an alarming insight: “The war on terror has already begun. It will encompass 100 years but the West will win.” Slightly more than two months later, on September 11, 2001, the United States found itself under attack.
In a statement distributed by Sar-El, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak stated the following: “Throughout all his years in the army Davidi was on the frontline of leading commanders.” Barak said that Aharon was “one whose strength stemmed not from his rank but from the quality of his character” and a leader who endowed future generations of soldiers “with values of excellence, command and leadership under enemy fire.”
Aharon Davidi will never again jump from an airplane and descend to earth beneath a fabric canopy or speak to an audience. Yet, he lives on in the memories of those he encountered over the course of his life. He garnered the utmost respect from all.
Aharon Davidi, like all Israelis, longed for an amicable and secure peace for his homeland and the surrounding nations. This desire was unfulfilled at the time of his death, but at least the former warrior himself is now at rest. His gravesite is outside Tel Aviv.
The author (John Stemple) is grateful for Sar-El‘s cooperation and input.