Choose someone, fictional or nonfictional, historical or contemporary, whom you consider to be a leader. Suppose you are this person's primary advisor. How would you advise this person and why?
In my last year of Hebrew school we had to write an essay on a prominent Jewish figure. In choosing who to write about I took the same approach as I do when choosing any assignment topic: find something you know nothing about. I flipped through a couple of books and came across a picture of someone I'd never seen before in my life. His name was Yonatan Netanyahu - never heard of him. Bingo!
I began my research. I found out that he was a commander in the Israeli military. But apart from this, there was very little information about Yoni on the internet, and I began to wonder why I hadn't just chosen Golda Meir or Sandy Kofax. I was forced to go to the Jewish Community Centre library where I found a compilation of letters he had written. The librarian also suggested that I rent a movie that featured him called Raid on Entebbe. I brought them both home and started anew.
I had no idea what a huge effect Yoni's letters would have on me. He had written them when he was my age, and yet they were as dazzling as any work of literature I had ever read. He was an intellectual, a sage and a poet. He wrote about his experience as an Israeli teenager living in the United States with moving eloquence and incredible insight. His descriptions of the inextricable link he had to his homeland moved me to tears, and I used several of his quotes in my valedictory address at the end of the year.
Yoni wasn't a prominent Jewish figure because of his letters though. His brilliance came later, when he returned to Israel and joined the military in order to protect the country he loved so deeply. From the very beginning he demonstrated his leadership ability, and quickly climbed the ranks of the army. I'll never forget reading a private's account about how when all the other commanders would lay around while the lesser soldiers trained, Yoni was always out doing the exercises with them, encouraging them from his place at the front of the pack.
The peak of his career was the Raid on Entebbe, a mission to rescue a plane full of Israelis hijacked by terrorists in Uganda. I watched the movie with fascination. My enthralment turned to horror when I saw the bullet hit Yoni in the back, and the blossom of red spread across his chest. I cried, as the nation of Israel had 30 years before, when their hero and mine fell as countless others had before him.
I feel uncomfortable offering any kind of advice to Yoni, because he was so much more than me in so many ways. What do you say to a man who led with the conviction, strength, and undying love that Yoni did? Don't get shot? It is especially hard for me to give advice to a military hero because I am a dyed-in-the-wool pacifist, but I could never critique his involvement in bloody wars because of the passion and unfailing reason he used to justify his motivations. So instead of giving advice to him, I will selfishly just take some for myself, on how to live with integrity and grace and influence others to do the same.