10 Things You Need to Know About… David El-Azar

Warrior for Israel

1. David “Dado” El-Azar was born in Sarajevo in August 1925, to parents of Sephardic heritage. His father was a partisan who fought against the Nazis in Tito’s guerilla forces.

2. In 1940, Dado made aliyah as part of the Youth Aliyah movement and settled in Kibbutz Ein Shemer. For a time he studied at Hebrew University.

3. He joined the Palmach and fought with them in a number of battles in the War of Independence. He was twice wounded in the battle for Jerusalem.

David_Elazar4. At age 24, he became the youngest battalion commander in the Palmach, heading up HaPortzim Battalion, part of the famous Harel Brigade led by Yitzhak Rabin.

5. He stayed in the army following the establishment of the State of Israel. In 1961, he became commander of the armored corps, and is credited with building its strength. By 1964, he’d become chief of the Northern Command, and in this capacity oversaw the capture of the Golan Heights during the Six Day War (1967) – in just two days.

6. In 1972, he was appointed Chief of Staff of the IDF, its ninth. Terrorism became an important issue in these years – including Munich. It was difficult to know when to act and when not to. Under his command, for example, a Libyan airliner carrying civilians was shot down over Sinai when it did not respond to repeated requests. When the Egyptian army began carrying out frequent training maneuvers in the Sinai, lookouts began to ignore them. El-Azar became convinced that Egypt and Syria were about to attack and recommended complete mobilization, but the government, including Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, thought it unlikely and opted instead for a call-up of reserves coupled with an appeal for international pressure against Arab aggression.

7. Egypt and Syria attacked on Yom Kippur in what has become known as the Yom Kippur War. Israel was unprepared. The war, though successful for Israel, caused heavy casualties. Some commentators say that  El-Azar’s ability to keep his cool during the early, trying days of the war led directly to Israel’s comeback and ultimate victory.

8. Nonetheless, El-Azar resigned his position after the war, following publication of a report that criticized his performance as Chief of Staff, saying he bore responsibility for assessment and preparedness.

9. He died of a heart attack in April 1976, and is buried on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.

10. In 2006, in a poll of the general public, he was voted one of Israel’s top 200 greatest Israelis, coming in at number 107.

In Tel Aviv, El-Azar Street can be found in Neve Tzedek, near the sea.

In Haifa, it runs along the southern coast into Hubert Humphrey Street. Also, a street in Hadera is named for him.

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