11th IDF Chief of Staff, Minister and MK
Born in moshav Tel Adashim, Eitan was an officer in the Palmah and was wounded in the battle for Jerusalem in the War of Independence. In the 1956 Sinai Campaign, he was one of the first to parachute into the Mitla Pass; during the Six-Day War he also fought prominently there.
The Israeli commando unit which raided the Beirut airport in 1968 was in his charge. He served as chief infantry and paratroop officer; during the Yom Kippur War his unit advanced to within 25 miles of Damascus. In April 1978 he became chief of staff.
After leaving the army he became a Knesset member, first with Techiyah and then with Tzomet which he founded and led. He was minister of agriculture 1988-91. In the 1996 elections, Raphael Eitan joined his party Tzomet with Likud. In the same year, he began his term as the minister of agriculture and environment and as deputy prime minister.
Entry reproduced with permission from "Junior Judaica, Encyclopedia Judaica for Youth" CD-ROM (C)
by C.D.I. Systems 1992 (LTD) and Keter.
Rafael Eitan was one of Israel's founder generation who joined the Palmach in their teenage years, he was only 16 at the time. He joined the IDF after Independence and studied at Israel's National Defense College, rising in the ranks through the paratroopers. He served as Chief of Staff from 1978-1983, including during the 1982 IDF incursion into Lebanon. During this period, he also pioneered a special track of army service for disadvantaged teenagers who would otherwise not have met service criteria, who were known as "Na'arei Raful" (Raful's boys).
During his political career of almost 16 years, Rafael Eitan served in the 11th-14th Knessets and in the 24th-27th governments on the political right wing, leaving the Tehiya Party to form Tzomet, which eventually joined the Likud Party and the Gesher Movement coalition. His positions on numerous government committees included Foreign Affairs & Defense, and the anti-Drug Committees. His main ministerial responsibilities addressed his other professional interest, farming, as Minister for Agriculture and later for both Agriculture/Rural Development and the Environment. He also served as Deputy Prime Minister in the 14th Knesset. He was not re-elected in the 1999 elections.
Rafael Eitan called himself a "soldier, pilot and farmer" and continued farming throughout his career. He published an autobiography entitled, "A Soldier's Story". In semi-retirement, he assumed responsibility for the new "Jubilee port" project at Ashdod, which is where he drowned accidentally in stormy weather, on the morning of 23rd November 2004, 10th Kislev 5765....
He is survived by his wife Ofra Meyerson, his ex-wife, Miriam, a sister, three daughters and ten grandchildren. One son Yoram, was killed in an air force training accident (1981); Yonanan, his other son, died of asthma aged ten.