Col. (res.) Dannny Wolf (Rahav), one of the Israel Defense Forces' greatest combat officers and strategic planners, died yesterday at his home in Moshav Orot at the age of 66. Wolf will be buried at his nearby birthplace, Moshav Be'er Tuvia, this afternoon.
Maj. Gen. (res.) Yisrael Tal, one of Wolf's closest friends, called him a model of military and civilian courage, citing his insistence on sticking to his principles at the cost of career advancement, as well as his physical courage - for nearly half his life, Wolf suffered from cancer.
"I wanted to be David Sterling [the legendary British commander in the western desert during World War II,]" he had told a friend. However, Wolf never got his way. The General Staff, particularly then-chief of staff, Mordechai Gur, blocked Wolf's goals of moving into the expanses of Syria and Iraq. But at the height of Wolf's career, before he was sick, he was the outstanding commander of all IDF elite units. He commanded Shaked, Unit 424, in the Suez Canal during the War of Attrition and in the war against terror in Gaza.
Despite general staff reservations, Shaked under Wolf's command conducted two brigade level operations on the western banks of the Suez Canal (Sergeant and Victoria) that were microcosms of the western crossing of the canal in 1973.
Sharon harbored great warmth and rare admiration for Wolf, but after the Lebanon War, contact between the two ended and was revived only last week, when Wolf knew - because he decided - that his end was near.
Militarily, he was identified with 424, politically, with 242, land for peace. After leaving the army, he became a major player in the Council for Peace and Security, and preached political compromise. As a result, former chief of staff Rafael Eitan refused to give him a divisional command in reserves. That cast a shadow over their friendship, but did not put an end to it. Eitan, who does not usually praise anyone else's heroism, broke that custom this week, speaking to Wolf.
Wolf enlisted in the paratroopers in 1955 and participated in the retaliation raids and the Sinai campaign. As a major in the 1967 Six Day War, he led, with Dan Shomron, the paratroopers division on its way to the Suez Canal. For his daring and leadership, he was awarded the supreme medal of honor.
Maj. Gen. (res.) Avraham Tamir, who established the General Staff's Planning Branch after the Yom Kippur War, said that Wolf had a fertile and original mind. Already in the 1970s, Wolf promoted developing the capability to strike at hostile regimes such as Saddam Hussein's.
Gur and his predecessors, Haim Bar Lev and David Elazar, held grudges against Wolf for identifying with Sharon. Elazar ignored Sharon's recommendation to name Wolf commander of the northern division at the canal in the summer of 1973.
When the war broke out, Wolf hurried to Sinai from the war college, where he was teaching, and was given a special reconnaissance unit in Sharon's command. At the end of the war, he helped Tamir draft the separation of forces agreement between the IDF and the Egyptians.
On Sunday night, after deciding the time had come to put an end to the suffering, Wolf convened his family - his wife Tzvia, his son Udi and his daughters Sigal and Dalit, who gave him his seven grandchildren - for a farewell gathering in his living room.
That afternoon, Sharon called him and heard praise for the assassination of Abdel Aziz Rantisi and a reminder from Wolf to make sure that when fighting Palestinians, the IDF do everything to make sure children are not harmed. The killing of Palestinian children, he often said, was a stain that could not be erased from the IDF uniforms and suits of ministers in government.
The story of his life, which ended on Holocaust Day, began in Germany, with the rise of the Nazis to power. His father, Dr. Yehuda Wolf, decided that very day to emigrate to Israel. A friend had invited Wolf to stay with him once he reached Tel Aviv but Wolf arrived a day late in June 1933 - his friend, Haim Arlozorov, was murdered the previous day.
Danny was born four years later in Be'er Tuvia, where his father was as the doctor of the south.
On Sunday, after a last walk with his dog Molly, he put the finishing touches on the coffin he made in his workshop from Canadian pine, then called together his family and bade them farewell. Early yesterday morning, to the strains of the Israeli Philharmonic playing Mozart, he closed his eyes for the last time. His son Udi rose and saluted.
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