Thursday, March 17, 2005

Amir Drori....a Beautiful Tribute

He was hero and friend to the Jerusalem Post's Caroline Glick, and he passed away at age 68 last Saturday night of a heart attack. In a wonderful tribute, Glick shares with us the man she knew and admired.

Amir was the personification of the iconic Israeli. It was the notion that people like Amir existed that made me decide, as a young girl in Chicago, that the only thing I wanted to be when I grew up was an Israeli.

Glick discusses meeting Drori in 1995, when she was a captain in the army serving as negotiations coordinator, during the talks for the transfer of civil authorities in Judea and Samaria to the P.L.O. She was disappointed in the generals she served with since they seemed self-absorbed and self-important.

And then one day Amir walked through the door. Amir, the founder and director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was the former IDF deputy chief of staff. In the Six Day War he had been a battalion commander in the Golani Infantry Brigade. In the Yom Kippur War he commanded Golani. And in Operation Peace for Galilee, as a major general he commanded the Northern Command. He was a living legend.

It seems this living legend was able to bring out the best in everyone around him.

Amir's mere presence sufficed to transform – if only for a moment – these wannabe globetrotters and prima donnas into salty warriors and guardians of Israel.

Glick recalls a time when she had to call her hero in the middle of the night with a major crisis. Somehow control of Samuel's Tomb was handed over to the Palestinians. Drori responded he'd be right there. He drove all night and in the afternoon, he sat across from Arafat.

The terrorist's lip and hand shook incessantly as he peered at Amir. He recognized him as the man who threw him out of Lebanon. In a famous picture taken in Beirut, Amir had Arafat's head in his rifle scope. After 90 minutes, the session was over. Amir restored Samuel's Tomb to full Israeli control and gave nothing in exchange.

He loved archeology as a hobby but after he retired in 1987, he took over the Antiquities Department in the Ministry of Education (where Glick joined him when she left the army).

What he found there broke his heart... when he arrived, robbery of antiquities and the destruction of precious archeological sites through piratical excavations and building and development activities were rampant.

He oversaw the legislation of the Antiquities Law that established the Israel Antiquities Authority as a statutory body tasked with safeguarding and overseeing all archeological activities in the country. He organized a special department to prevent piratical digs and theft. He ensured that all building activities on archeological sites became contingent on the carrying out of salvage digs to rescue the antiquities beneath the ground that would otherwise be lost forever.

Drori loved the land and had the uncanny ability to look at the landscape as if he were staring at an already completed dig, all the battle lines of the past -- and all the way back to the cavemen days. This was a talent that marveled Glick.

Amir's death is a terrible blow. But for me, there is some comfort in the way he died – walking with his beloved wife in his beloved desert, still uncovering, until his dying breath, yet more of the inexhaustible secrets of the Land of Israel which he loved and defended with all his strength and heart.

Like his buried treasures, Amir too was a national treasure – proof positive that in spite of the mediocrity of many, the beautiful Israeli is not a myth. All we need to do to make our ideals reality is slip on a pair of hiking boots and a hat, fill a canteen and go and discover the beauty of our land, knowing that we are following in Amir Drori's deep footsteps.

And thanks to Caroline Glick, more of us know about the treasure that was Amir Drori.


At 12:02 PM, Blogger RomanWanderer said...

I loved the Arafat anecdote- we'll probably never know what was said

At 4:13 PM, Blogger Esther said...

I agree, RW...loved that anecdote too. He truly sounded like an amazing man.


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