Staff Sargent Yaniv Bar-on z”l
Son of Errol (Asher) and Carleen. Yaniv was born in Rehovot on November 9th 1986 and at the age of two and a half, he moved with his family to Maccabim. He had a joyful and happy childhood, filled with trips and activities. Yaniv was a classic middle child. He enjoyed playing with his older brother, Eitan, as well as with his younger sister, Hadass. The love and affection he received from surrounding him was greatly reciprocated.
Yaniv’s parents made aliya from English speaking countries (his mother from Canada and his father from South Africa) and was brought up with both English and Hebrew as his mother tongue. His maternal grandparents lived in Montreal and most summers Yaniv would fly there with his family to visit them. During these vacations Yaniv went to camps where he learned to swim, play baseball, hockey and football.
Childhood and Adolescence
Yaniv and his family toured North America many times and visited places such as Disney World, Universal Studios, the east and west coasts and Niagara Falls, major cities and national parks. In addition he also travelled extensively in Europe and enjoyed an amazing trip to South Africa. Yaniv’s last visit to North America was the summer before he was drafted. During this vacation Yaniv and his family toured Nova-Scotia which is in the East Coast of Canada. The family went rafting in the lakes, whale watching in the sea and hiked in breathtaking scenery.
His elementary school was Maoz HaMaccabim in Maccabim. He attended Junior High in the neighboring town of Re’ut, where he completed his schooling at the MOR high school. He majored in biology and economics. Yaniv was a quiet and polite student who made an effort in the classes that interested him and neglected a little those which didn’t.
One of Yaniv’s greatest characteristics was the amount of knowledge he acquired. He was interested in a variety of subjects such as history, geography, science and mostly aviation. Yaniv fell in love with civil aviation from a young age, perhaps due to the many visits of his abroad. In his eyes, exploring the airport and being onboard an aircraft was more exciting than the vacation itself! He knew every mechanical detail about the plane, he read books and magazines on civil aviation, took pictures of planes and spent many hours surfing the internet in search of civil aviation websites.
On Fridays, Yaniv used to drive with his friends to Ben Gurion Airport to watch the planes take off and land. With the help of his radio scanner he was able to listen to the communications between the control tower and the pilots. Eventually he understood the code words the two sides used and he was able to tell his friends on which runway the plane will land or the turn the plane would take while flying in the sky.
Yaniv was an expert when it came to flight simulators. He taught himself to fly planes, to plan flying routes, to navigate and any other element needed for a safe flight. He would sit in front of the computer, communicate with the tower and fly with the help of a joystick. In addition, Yaniv had a control tower simulator with which he would control his virtual flying. He was very patient and did his best to understand how flying and tower control worked. Diligence and researching things that interested him, was one of Yaniv’s outstanding qualities.
Yaniv participated in karate and tennis during his youth and enjoyed playing basketball and soccer. He was a big supporter of Maccabi Tel Aviv and even in their weaker seasons, he kept on cheering the team. His Bar Mitzvah present was to see a Premier League match and a few months after he went up to the Tora, he flew with his family to England and saw the Tottenham Hotspurs - Aston Villa game in White Hart Lane.
During his high school period, Yaniv maintained the website of local basketball team Maccabi Maccabim-Re’ut. When he began doing this, he lacked the technical knowledge needed to maintain a website, but with the help of his friends, he soon became familiar with the work. To make the website more interesting, Yaniv took pictures at the games, interviewed players and coaches and kept the website up to date. At one point, Yaniv noticed that there weren’t a lot of fans at the team’s games so he established the Maccabi Maccabim-Re’ut fan club. He was truly the team’s number one fan and he recruited many fans and brought equipment, such as flags and drums, giving each game an enthusiastic atmosphere.
The players were extremely grateful for the changes in the stands and they said more than once that the cheering gave them the motivation needed to win games. At the end of the season, Yaniv received a trophy as a symbol of appreciation for his dedication to the club. A basketball tournament in honor of Yaniv was held In September 2006, two and a half months after he was killed. In the ceremony that followed the tournament it was announced that the club’s youth team would be renamed Maccabi Maccabim Yaniv.
Yaniv’s dream was to be an air traffic controller and he was hoping to start this during his service. His request was denied and so he chose to serve in the Armored Corps. He was drafted in December 2004, successfully completed his basic training and a tank driver’s course and was attached to the 82nd Battalion of the 7th Brigade. Yaniv was enamored with the brigade’s impressive history and was proud to serve there. Yaniv being Yaniv learned all about the brigade’s and the corps’ history. He was so knowledgeable that when foreign visitors visited the base, he was asked to accompany and explain about the 7th Brigade. After completing an advance tank course, Yaniv was placed in Company A which was at the time based in the Jewish settlement of Netzarim in the Gaza Strip. Yaniv drove one of the last tanks out of the Gaza Strip as part of the 2005 Disengagement Program. He moved on with his battalion to the Golan Heights for a few months and from there they continued to the “blue line” – the Israeli-Lebanese border. During their time on the Lebanese border, Yaniv and his crew were kept on a high alert and would stay for days and nights in their tank, preparing for any possible offensive attack from Hezbollah.
On July 12th 2006, Hezbollah launched an attack across the Israeli-Lebanese border. While heavy artillery was being fired on Israel, the terrorist group crossed the border and attacked two IDF vehicles on patrol. Three soldiers were killed in the attack and two were captured by Hezbollah and taken back to Lebanon. Yaniv’s post was the closest one to the incident and his crew was ordered into Lebanon and stop the Hezbollah vehicle from escaping northwards. Yaniv and his crew heroically made it to their tank, even though their post was under a heavy artillery barrage. Yaniv and his crew entered Lebanon with their tank and managed to shoot and destroy a few Hezbollah posts before they drove over a huge land mine which completely destroyed the tank and killed all the crew members instantly. Yaniv’s crew included Staff Sargent Alex Kushnirski, Staff Sargent Gadi Musiev and Staff Sargent Shlomi Yeremyahu.
Yaniv was laid to rest in a mass funeral on July 16th 2006. He was the first soldier to be buried in the Modi’in military cemetery.
Ronen Rozental who served with Yaniv in the battalion wrote:
“Yaniv, we went through all the training courses together. I joined the basic training a week late and Roni and you were assigned to welcome me and get me oriented. I noticed your qualities straight away, such a nice guy who was always willing to help others even before he helps himself.
We shared a room and while you heard me many times complain, I rarely heard you do the same. The glass was always half full in your eyes and even in times when we were hardly sent home, you saw the logic in it.
I’ll never forget your passion for airplanes. I’ve never met a person who knows so much about airplanes. You wanted to be a pilot or an air traffic controller but it didn’t work out. Yet, you didn’t let it bum you out. You enjoyed your service and we established a tank drivers’ brotherhood. We were very close and learned a lot from one another and you always asked me to explain things you didn’t understand. I remember how during the hot days in the Golan, we would choke while putting out fire after fire.
Until this day, I have a picture of you on my phone, holding your AIRPLANE magazine which you read all the time. I remember how I’d make fun of you that you must be the only person in the world with a subscription to that magazine. It’s such a shame, and I can’t even express how much of a shame it is, that you won’t get to fulfil your dreams. Although, when I think about it, there is no place with more sky and new experiences like where you are now, in Heaven.
My dear friend, I feel it was a privilege for the new military plot in the Modi’in cemetery to have you be the first soldier buried there because the firsts are always the most special. And you were extremely special.
When I was told that you had been killed I couldn’t stop calling your phone. Even today, I call your phone from time to time, falsely hoping that you will answer while some Genghis Khan song is playing in the background.
I miss you and all I can ask is that you watch over me and our friends because I know you’d do anything to protect us”.
Battalion Commander Lieutenant Colonel Oded Basyuk wrote:
“Yaniv was an outstanding combat soldier who participated in intensive operational activities in the Gaza Strip and defended the northen towns in Ramat HaGolan. Yaniv took part in the ongoing defensive tasks on the Lebanese border.
Yaniv was known as a talented and excellent soldier. He showed great motivation, contributed wherever he could and helped his fellow soldiers. Yaniv always had a smile on his face and was loved for his caring and devotion to his friends. I have no doubt that Yaniv’s uniqueness is a result of the way he was brought up”.
IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Dan Halutz wrote:
Yaniv’s commanders have told me that he was אדם משכמו ומעלה (cr?me de la cr?me), an excellent soldier who was a role model for all those a round him. Yaniv was described as a soldier who was a pleasure to serve with – bright, serious and very professional. He liked to help and contribute and was known to be a true friend. He truly acted in the spirit of the IDF (רוח צה"ל).