Duty Took Netanyahu To Israel

Jonathan Netanyahu came to Harvard in 1967 with far more on his mind than succeeding academically, adjusting socially, and getting used to cold Cambridge winters.

After just one year, his sense of duty and his life-long determination to defend his country at any cost compelled him to return to Israel.

The future Lieutenant Colonel Netanyahu--who completed his only full year at Harvard twenty-five years ago--was the only Israeli soldier to die in the 1976 raid on the Entebbe, Uganda airport, during which the Israeli army freed 100 Israeli hostages held by Palestinian sympathizers.

Long before Entebbe, Netanyahu's determination struck two of his Harvard mentors.

"He cared deeply about what he believed in," says his first-year resident advisor Robert E. Kaufmann '62. "Jonathan was clearly destined for a high military role."


Seamus Malin '62 says Netanyahu regarded his military service not as a bothersome obligation, but as a passionate duty. "Yoni [Jonathan's nickname] was one of those people that you just don't see replicated," he says.

Netanyahu enjoyed his year at Harvard, during which he lived with his wife, Tutti, in Peabody Terrace. In his opinion, in fact, his time here was too pleasurable.

"He found it hard to justify the life he was now living," Malin says. "He kept looking over his shoulder at the people he left behind."

While at Harvard, Netanyahu spent his leisure time with his wife and a few close friends, says longtime companion Elliot Z Entis '67-'68.

Entis, who met Netanyahu at camp in New Hampshire during the summer prior to Netanyahu's year at Harvard, says Netanyahu profoundly influenced his life. "He taught me that idealism is a viable concept for actual behavior," Entis says.

In a July 6, 1976 eulogy, Israel's then-Defense Minister Shimon Peres lauded Netanyahu's courage and compassion.

"In the university he studied philosophy. In the army he taught self-sacrifice. To his soldiers he gave his human warmth, and in battle he imbued them with coolness of judgments," Peres said.

Netanyahu worked hard at Harvard, qualifying for Group I despite the fact that English was not his first Language.

An October 16, 1967 letter from Netanyahu to his brotherBenjamin, printed in Self-Portrait of a Hero: The Letters of Jonathan Netanyahu, reveals the extent to which he immersed himself in life at Harvard.

"Here you don't have even a moment's peace. For if you do have such a moment, you may as well think about a physics problem that's not been solved yet, or finish a chapter in math or, for heaven's sake, finish reading Homer, or go over the geology lecture, or write an essay for Expository Writing," he wrote.

But a letter to brother Iddo written almost six months later shows that he thought he belonged elsewhere: