Tag Archives: Sayeret Matkal

Jew of the Week: Danny Lewin

The ‘Fighting Genius’ of 9/11

Danny Lewin

Danny Lewin

Daniel Mark Lewin (1970-2001) was born in Denver, Colorado. He spent his early childhood there, playing sports and the violin, and programming his first Apple II computer when he was just nine years old. His family made aliyah to Israel when he was 14. Living near Jerusalem, Lewin found school of little challenge and often skipped class to work out at a gym. It wasn’t long before he won the Mr. Teenage Israel bodybuilding competition. Not surprisingly, he joined the IDF’s elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit. After four years as an officer – attaining the rank of captain – Lewin went to study at Technion, while also working for IBM. From there, he got a full scholarship to MIT and studied towards a PhD in computer science. During this time, he came up with a new algorithm that had the potential to revolutionize the nascent internet. Others didn’t see it that way, and felt his concept wouldn’t go very far. Despite the opposition, he teamed up with one of his professors and started a new company, Akamai Technologies. In March of 1999, a series of events caused a surge in internet activity that crashed many websites. It appeared that only the sites served by Akamai had survived. Akamai Technologies became an overnight sensation. A successful IPO shortly after made Lewin a billionaire. On September 11, 2001, Lewin boarded American Airlines flight 11. According to air traffic control recordings, Lewin attacked two of the terrorists on board, but was surprised by a third knife-wielding terrorist from behind. He was killed about 30 minutes before the plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Lewin therefore carries the tragic distinction of being the first victim of 9/11. He left behind a wife and two small children. At just 31 years of age, he was expected to make big waves, with some predicting he could have become an Israeli prime minister (like fellow Sayeret Matkal graduates Barak and Netanyahu), or one of the world’s true tech titans. His Akamai Technologies is still a multi-billion dollar internet giant today. In his honour, Cambridge, Massachusetts has a Danny Lewin Square and Park, and the annual award for best student paper on computing is named after him, too.

Words of the Week

Long after we have forgiven you for killing our sons, we will be working to forgive you for turning our sons into killers.
– Golda Meir

Jews of the Week: Nathan, Benzion and Yoni Netanyahu

Nathan Mileikowsky (1879-1935) was born in what is now Belarus to an Orthodox Jewish family descended from the great Vilna Gaon. When he was ten, he joined the famous Volozhin yeshiva and after eight years of diligent study was ordained as a rabbi. During this time he became drawn to Zionism and soon dedicated his time to the Zionist cause. He traveled across Europe, Russia, and later the United States to raise support for Zionism – becoming one of the world’s most popular Zionist speakers – as well as to raise money for the Jewish National Fund. In 1920, Mileikowsky made aliyah to Israel. He headed a school in Rosh Pina, promoted settlement of the Galilee, and wrote¬†articles for the Hebrew press – often under the pen name “Netanyahu”. He continued to tour globally, at one point giving over 700 lectures in under 9 months, and publishing some of these talks in a popular book. Towards the end of his life, Mileikowsky settled in Herzliya and established a farm.

Benzion Netanyahu

Benzion Netanyahu

His son, Benzion Mileikowsky (1910-2012), was born in Warsaw while Nathan was head of its Hebrew Gymnasium. Growing up in Israel, he adopted his father’s pen name “Netanyahu”. Benzion studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, taking on a more hard-line approach to Zionism. He became editor of a number of Zionist newspapers, and later the chief editor of the Encyclopaedia Hebraica. In 1940, Benzion moved to New York to build American support for the Jewish state, serving as executive director of an American Zionist group. Later on, he became a professor of Judaic studies and medieval history at Cornell University. Benzion published five books on Jewish history, and edited a number of others. His three sons are: Iddo, a doctor and author;¬†Benjamin, Israel’s current prime minister; and Yoni, the eldest son.

Last known photograph of Yoni Netanyahu

Last known photograph of Yoni Netanyahu

Yonatan “Yoni” Netanyahu (1946-1976) was born in New York, went to high school in Pennsylvania, and studied at Harvard. He first enlisted in the IDF in 1964, and fought in the Six-Day War, getting wounded while rescuing a soldier behind enemy lines. A few years later, he joined Israel’s special forces unit, Sayeret Matkal, and by 1972 became its deputy commander. For his heroic service during the 1973 Yom Kippur War he was awarded a distinguished medal. In 1976, now commander of Sayeret Matkal, Yoni led Operation Entebbe, successfully rescuing over 100 Israeli hostages held in Uganda. Sadly, Yoni was the mission’s sole casualty, and passed away during the flight back home. In 1980, his personal letters were published, and were described as a “remarkable work of literature”. Both a film and play have recently been made about his life.

Words of the Week

God treats a person the same way they treat their children.
– Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin

Jew of the Week: Naftali Bennett

Software Entrepreneur, Special Forces Commander

Naftali Bennett

Naftali Bennett

Naftali Bennett (b. 1972) was born in Haifa to Modern Orthodox parents who made aliyah to Israel (from San Francisco) following the Six-Day War. He studied at Yavne Yeshiva, where he became a youth leader for Bnei Akiva, the religious Zionist organization. After his studies, Bennett joined the IDF and served in the Sayeret Matkal and Maglan special forces units, rising to the rank of company commander. His primary area of operations was in Lebanon. After completing his service, Bennett studied at the Hebrew University, earning a law degree. In 1999, he moved to New York and co-founded the software company Cyota. As its CEO, Bennett built the start-up into a successful tech firm and sold it in 2005 for $145 million. Bennett then returned to Israel and continued his work as a software entrepreneur. At one point he served as CEO of Soluto, which was recently sold for nearly $130 million. Not long after his return to Israel, the Lebanon War broke out and Bennett returned to the IDF, leading a number of search-and-destroy missions in Hezbollah territory. Following the war, Bennett joined Netanyahu’s Likud party and soon became his Chief of Staff. Between 2010 and 2012, Bennett was the director-general of Yesha, the organization that represents Jewish settlements in Judah and Samaria (commonly known as the “West Bank”). After founding a number of other organizations promoting Israel and the Zionist cause, Bennett left Likud and joined HaBayit HaYehudi (The Jewish Home), a religious Zionist political party. He immediately ran for party leadership and won by a landslide. Just a few months later, Bennett was able to win 12 seats for the party in Israel’s Knesset (compared to just 3 seats for the party in the previous election). Among other roles, he became the Minister of the Economy and Minister of Religious Services, as well as a member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. He has been praised for his work as Minister of the Economy, opening up new trade agreements with emerging markets around the world, boosting trade with Russia, China, Brazil, and India, as well as dealing with increasing boycotts of Israeli products. Bennett is continuing to lead HaBayit HaYehudi into Israel’s coming elections in March. Some of his platform positions have been controversial, among them opposing a Palestinian state, and fighting Israel’s big unions. At the same time, he is pushing education reform, more investment in underprivileged parts of Israeli society and in small businesses, and providing affordable housing and land provisions for veterans. He is also focused on integrating Israeli-Arabs and Ultra-Orthodox Jews more tightly into Israel’s society and workforce. Bennett remains a reservist in the IDF, holding the rank of Major.

Words of the Week

The fact that the entire world says something does not mean it is correct.
Naftali Bennett, in an interview for Israel’s Channel Two.