It has been nearly 40 years since one of the most remarkable hostage rescue operations in modern history occurred in Uganda. German terrorists that were left of center, shall we say, teamed up with Palestinian terrorists and hijacked an airliner carrying mostly Jewish passengers, and landed it in Entebbe, Uganda. I remember it well. It was during the reign of raving madness that was the hallmark of Idi Amin and his administration, which facilitated the hijacking by allowing the terrorists to land and stay at the airport. For eight days, the world, and especially the not even 30 year old State of Israel waited, praying that the terrorists’ threats to kill all the hostages if Israel didn’t meet their demands would not come to pass.
It was July 4, 1976, and it became known as the “Miracle at Entebbe.” The raid was led by Yoni Netanyahu, the big brother of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu, and it was a phenomenal success. Lt. Col Netanyahu led the squad that blew into the airport, blew away the terrorists, and rescued 103 people. It was an astronomical gamble, executed with precision, and people like the Navy SEALS have learned much from the Israelis and the strategies employed at Entebbe.
Sadly, as the hostages were scurrying to the transport planes to be extracted before Idi Amin could muster his troops, Yoni was shot and killed. He was the only Israeli soldier to die in the raid. News journalists such as Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley kept us up to date before the days of 24/7 cable feeds of today, and the whole world cheered when the hostages were freed and rescued. They also mourned the fact that 30 year old Yoni, (which is the equivalent of the name Johnny) lost what had already been a life that was the stuff of legends.
Now there is a documentary of both the raid and the man who died saving others. It contains footage of the actual rescue and a discussion of both the complexities of the raid and those of the man who led it. It is entitled Follow Me: The Yoni Netanyahu Story. Below is one of the reviews of the film:
The Charlotte Observer
“Yoni Netanyahu hated war but loved his country. He led the seemingly impossible but successful Raid on Entebbe but tragically became the only Israeli casualty. Told partly through his own letters and poetry, this compelling documentary unveils his complex character by allowing us to see beyond his tough exterior into a deep inner personality where heroism, duty, love, turmoil and doubt raged. His writings describe with striking clarity the exhilaration and fear he faced during the crossroads of his short but fascinating life and the recognition of his human frailty. Nevertheless, Yonatan Netanyahu dared to make a difference, and he is a true modern day hero.”
Let us, as we face the weariness of war and find ways to support our soldiers, remember that Israel lives with the constant threat of annihilation, and yet, they press on toward a better day. May we in America do the same.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner