Haim Yisraeli, a top aide to 14 Israeli defense ministers, passed away at the age of 84. A humble person who served his country in the shadows until his 1998 Israel Prize brought his name into the spotlight, Yisraeli was hailed not only for his dedication to his government, but, in the words of many Chabad-Lubavitch leaders, as someone whose heart was always open to strengthening the Jewish identities of soldiers and Israelis around the world.

Yisraeli served under the country’s first prime minister and defense minister, David Ben-Gurion, beginning in 1950. He continued as a senior civil servant in the Ministry of Defense until his retirement in 2002.

“His contribution to Israel’s defense operations was unique,” President Shimon Peres said at Yisraeli’s funeral. “He passed the torch from one defense minister to the next.”

But while he was known as “an encyclopedia” on all defense matters, as the Israel Prize commission concluded in the citation awarding him the country’s highest honor, Yisraeli went above and beyond his duties in order to boost soldiers’ spiritual morale.

“He was a very special person,” said Rabbi Binyomin Klein, an aide to the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, and a liaison between Lubavitch World Headquarters and Israeli officials. “He was always there to assist every individual.”

“He was always there for us,” echoed Rabbi Menachem Lerrer, an aide to the late Rabbi Efraim Wolff, who directed Chabad-Lubavitch activities in Israel for many years, especially “when it came to any assistance in bringing the warmth of Judaism and traditions to Israeli soldiers.”

When travelling rabbis and rabbinical students would visit bases and front-line installations, Yisraeli organized their protective details. According to Lerrer, this enabled thousands of Chabad-Lubavitch volunteers to fan out across the country to encourage, strengthen and inspire Israeli soldiers.

“He loved Judaism,” said Lerrer, who frequently met with Yisraeli in his office. “Jewish tradition was a part of his being. I would come to him with issues big and small, and he was always willing to assist.”