Former IDF General Israeli Icon Avraham Adan Dies at 86

Image of Adan raising improvised flag after the conquest of Eilat in 1949 became Israel's version of the shot of U.S. Marines raising flag in Iwo Jimo during WWII.

Major-General Avraham "Bren" Adan, the IDF soldier who raised an improvised Israeli flag over Eilat in 1949, an act that symbolized the end of the Israeli War of Independence, died early Friday morning at the age of 86.  

During a long and successful military career, Adan served as commander of the IDF's Armored Corps as well as its Southern Command, and served as Israel's military attaché in the United States. He fought in the War of Independence, the Suez Crisis of 1956, the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War.

Born in Kfar Giladi in 1925, Adan was also among the founders of Kibbutz Nirim and Kibbutz Gevulot, both in Israel's Negev desert.

During the War of Independence, Adan served as a company commander in the IDF's Negev Brigade. On March 10, 1949, Adan was photographed raising an improvised Israeli flag, made out of white fabric and some ink, after the conquest of Umm Rashrash (the site of what would become the city of Eilat).

The shot became an iconic image – the Israeli equivalent of the famous photo of U.S. Marines raising the American flag on Iwo Jima during World War Two.

Two decades later, during the Yom Kippur War, Adan commanded the IDF's 162nd Division, which beat back the Egyptian forces that crossed the Suez Canal. For five days in October of 1973, that division fought off Egyptian attacks before it eventually crossed the Suez Canal.

In addition, the division managed to destroy the Egyptian 25th Brigade in an ambush and encircled the Egyptian Third Field Army in a move that led to the conclusion of the war on terms that were favorable for Israel.

After retiring from the military, Adan became Israel Police comptroller and later a member of the Movement for Quality Government in Israel and the Council for Peace and Security.

"He was a man whose history was completely intertwined with the history of our country. All his memories, the stories he retold throughout the years, were the stories of Israel at its best," Adan's daughter Neta told Haaretz.

"He was a man who did a lot. He was modest to shy, a humanist with respect for all men - Palestinians and Jews – whatever they may be. He believed that the country should be split up into two countries and in upholding the rights of the Palestinians," she said.

Regarding the image for which he is best known, his daughter said, "It was the press that created that significance, because of the picture; they made it the fulcrum of his life. But there were many battles he was proud of, including during his time in the Palmach and during the Yom Kippur War in the southern front, from which he returned with much pride."

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said of Adan that he was "one of the most important field commanders of the IDF. With his personal example and his cool in the face of danger, he cemented the norms that the IDF follows to this day."

Adan was supposed to celebrate his 86th birthday next week. His wife Miriam, with whom he lived in Ramat Hasharon, passed away last year. He is survived by his three children, 11 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Alex Levac