IDF Chief of Staff Gantz (6R) with the decorated soldiers. (Photo: IDF) IDF Chief of Staff Gantz (6R) with the decorated soldiers. (Photo: IDF)
Medal IDF Gantz

Fund Gantz

Lt. Eitan Fund (R) receives the Medal of Distinguished Service from IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz. (Photo: IDF Spokesman)

The IDF honored 57 brave men and women who served with distinction during the war against Hamas last summer.

The crowd stood and applauded as the IDF bestowed the highest honors on its fighting units and brave soldiers on Monday night at the Israeli Air Force’s Hatzerim base near Be’er Sheva.

The military awarded 57 medals and citations to soldiers and units that fought with distinction during Operation Protective Edge last summer.

The decorated soldiers included IDF officers and NCOs in both active and reserve duty who were honored by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and army generals. The families of the honored soldiers were also present.

The recipients were hand-picked after a rigorous process by a special awards committee led by Brig. Gen. (Res.) Harel Knafo. IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz approved the choices and pinned the awards on the honored soldiers.

The Distinguished Service Medal, Israel’s second-highest military honor and the highest decoration awarded during the ceremony, was given to Brigade Deputy Commander Lt. Eitan Fund of the Givati Reconnaissance Unit, who risked his life to try and save kidnapped Lt. Hadar Goldin. Goldin, one of 67 IDF casualties during the war, was abducted by Hamas through a tunnel inside Gaza.

The Givati Brigade is the most decorated unit, with citations and medals awarded to 13 of its soldiers.

IDF’s Paratrooper Brigade, which operated in the southern Gaza Strip, received seven citations and awards. The Nahal Brigade, whose soldiers were the first to enter Gaza during the first phases of the ground maneuver, received six citations.

Six of the decorated soldiers had lost their lives in combat.

Four women were among the decorated soldiers, including Lieutenant Dr. Regina Pekman, a medical officer with the 188 Armored Brigade who received a citation for commanding the evacuation of wounded IDF soldiers and providing medical treatment.

The elite Egoz unit of the famed Golani Brigade received a citation for its performance in the battle in Saja’iyya. “This citation symbolizes the performance of the entire Golani Brigade during the operation,” Golani commander Col. Rasan Alian said. “It was difficult and intensive fighting, and the Egoz unit had one of the most complex missions and got a lot of terrorists. Most of its gun fights were face-to-face battles with terrorists, and the unit deserves this honor.”

The IDF’s Iron Dome defensive unit, which provides crucial life-saving protection to Israeli civilians under attack by Hamas rockets, also received citations.

Bravery Under Fire

Gaza Protective Edge

A soldier during a battle in Gaza. (Photo: IDF)

“There are many courageous stories,” Gantz stated during the moving event. “Courage is relevant for all those who took part in the campaign, from the simple fact that they chose to do something despite the possible dangers.”

“Under heavy fire, and despite all the dangers, you proved what bravery is,” said Gantz. “In the heat of battle you took the extra step of courage and bravery that decided the battle and opened the way to succeeding in the mission.”

Ya’alon also praised the soldiers and their commitment. “You acted calmly and with courage, with wisdom and resourcefulness, while demonstrating leadership and risking your lives,” he said. “You knew that you could pay with your lives for your actions, but you were ready to go further and with your bodies protect your comrades and the citizens of Israel.”

Israel launched a 50-day campaign last summer to eradicate Hamas’ terror infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. The terror group fired over 4,000 rockets at Israel’s towns and cities during the operation, including some that reached as far as Tel Aviv and beyond. They also launched several assaults into Israel through terror tunnels.

In total, 67 IDF soldiers and six civilians were killed over the course of the conflict.