Israeli War Hero Ron Feller Dies, 84

Nicknamed 'Tank Hunter,' Feller was awarded the Medal of Valor for his actions in the 1948 War of Independence. Later, he developed patents that revolutionized agriculture.

Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet
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Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet

Some 13 years after the War of Independence, Ron Feller was asked if the Medal of Valor he was awarded affected his life. "I don't think so. Not at all. I didn't need help, I wasn't looking for honor, the award is hung on the wall. My son Rami once asked his mother if our guests won't run away when they find out that dad was a hero," he humbly told Maariv, before correcting himself: "Well, it might have helped me once, actually. It might have impressed a young woman and she agreed to marry me."

Tel Aviv native, decorated soldier and professor of agricultural engineering, Feller died last week at the age of 84. Feller was among the twelve recipients of the medal – the highest military decoration for valor in the IDF. The award was signed by Israel's first president, Chaim Weizmann, and the first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion.

On July 19, 1948, several hours before the second lull in fighting came into effect, Givati's battalion 53 was sent on a mission. The order was to seize control of several Arab villages, before the fighting stopped, so they would serve as a base for a future invasion of the Negev. The force, assisted by an armored corps battalion commanded by Moshe Dayan, captured the village of Karatiyya and remained there to guard it. They were only 50 fighters, without heavy arms.

The Egyptians immediately retaliated with a counterattack. "Sgt. Ron Feller then advanced, crawling, in broad daylight, from the quiet northern sector toward the enemy tanks. When he arrived 35 minutes later to a distance of 50 meters from them, he fired the [hand-held anti-tank weapon] PIAT he had. After the first shot, two tanks began shelling him. Even so, he cocked the PIAT again, aimed and hit the tank, rendering it inoperative. The second tank retreated," the explanation accompanying the decoration read, also stating that this action pushed off the enemy's attack that day.

After the war, Feller studied mechanical engineering at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, and later began working at the institute's newly established agricultural engineering faculty. Feller taught the first class in agricultural engineering, along with an expert sent by the UN.

Upon the establishment of the Institute for Agricultural Machinery in 1955, Feller was appointed as its deputy director, and was instrumental in determining the machines best suited for agriculture in Israel. He later worked at the Volcani Institute of Agricultural Research in Beit Dagan.

Throughout his scientific career, Feller registered 12 patents that granted him seven inventor awards. His invention includes a potato harvester for separating the vegetable from stones and soil clods.

After retiring in 1993, he established an agricultural crop laboratory in Australia. The research he conducted in the laboratory led to an improvement in the quality of raisins.

Feller was laid to rest on Friday at the military cemetery in Kiryat Shaul. He is survived by his wife Haviva, three children and 17 grandchildren.

Eighth Brigade soldiers of Israeli army during the War of Independence.Credit: GPO
Ron Feller.

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