The Death of Uri Ilan

Uri Ilan was an Israeli soldier that committed suicide in Syrian captivity in 1955. Before his death, he did something that became a symbol of Israeli heroism and sacrifice for the state.


Uri Ilan, an Israeli native, born and raised on Kibbutz Gan Shmuel, drafted into the Golani Brigade in 1953. On December 8th, 1954, he participated in Operation Cricket, an operation where Israeli forces tried to tap a phone line in Syrian territory. The operation went wrong, and Ilan and another four soldiers were caught and transferred to Damascus, where they were each locked up separately.

Ilan's mother, Fayge Ilanit was a member of Knesset, at the time he was taken into captivity. Many international organizations offered to help set her son free, and she insisted that they would do so only if that meant all of the five would be set free, and not just her son.

Ilan and his friends underwent terrible tortures while in captivity, and out of the fear that he would give away country secrets to the enemy, Uri Ilan committed suicide in his cell on January 13, 1955. His body was returned to Israel later that day.


When his body was checked, they found 10 different notes in his clothes and attached to his leg, all in Ilan's writing, explaining that he didn't know what had happened to his friends and that he didn't betray the country. Two words from his notes, Lo Bagadety (I didn't betray) became a famous saying in Israel after Chief of Staff Moshe Dayan read them out loud at his funeral.