My tale of the events of October 1973, started really a year earlier. At that time I tried to “raise my profile” from 37 (due to back injury) to whatever that will allow me to get back to normal reserve service in a fighting unit.
At that time, I was told by the army that I will not be able to serve in a fighting unit and very explicitly I got the explanation about the “waves” – once the first wave of soldiers will be gone the army will bring the second wave of normal reservists, once this wave will be gone the army will bring all other reserves available. Once this wave will be gone, then the army may call me to join a force of soldiers like myself, one-leg, one-eye or one-hand soldiers. The situation didn’t look too promising but I succumbed to realty.
On Saturday morning of Yom Kippur 1973, we were awakened by the unusual noise from the nearby air base, and indeed the news from there was not good. By that afternoon reservist from my kibbutz started leaving to their units. That evening we heard the blast of the first Frog missile
that hit several kilometers away from us. No call from the army came to me. Sunday was a day of confused messages from all over and in the evening, another missile hit very close by. That evening, I told my wife that in the morning I will leave to Tel-Aviv to see what is going on.
On my way to the city I saw from the bus a column of civilian tractors carrying some very old little anti tank canons. At that time I knew the situation was pretty bleak. Finally, around noon I arrived in השריון-בית. Lots of people were there, with and without uniforms, and you could sense the confusion from all over. The Major at the desk, without looking at me, asked for my military ID certificate, saw the “37 profile” and told me to go back home and wait for their call. The disconnection from realty of the uniformed soldiers was crying out. I went aside, took a pen and very carefully changed the 3 to a 9 and suddenly it was written in my ID that I have a “97 profile”. Ten minutes later, I stood in front of the same officer and told him very calmly that for some reason I didn’t get a call. Briefly he looked at my officer ID, mumbles something about my high profile and the incompetency of the reserve forces and ordered me to go immediately to the armor base at וליס’ג. I did so, and by the evening I reported to the local command.
I was placed with a group, mainly consisting of people that came back to Israel from abroad and some like me with a low profile. At that time the rumors that were going around were just terrible and did not help the moral; beside the rumors about the losses I heard that my kibbutz was in ruins, and the fate of my wife and two children was not clear at all. We got tanks and I got about eleven people to form a platoon – “1 מחלקה”. Although the Centurion tanks were completely new to me and indeed I didn’t like those tanks from my past service (I was a proud Paton tank-man not a Centurion man LOL). Nevertheless, a tank is a tank I said to myself. Not knowing even one soul in that crowed was more disturbing. During the armoring and getting the proper equipment, I noticed again the deep disconnect of the non-reserve (סדיר) soldiers. The store-man at the storage facility told me that nobody told him about emergency situation, and therefore he was not allowed to give us proper military attire. I resolved the issue very quickly by ordering two of my big guys to show him the exit door by lifting him up above the counter, and that despite his protests and threats of military court. At the end of the day I was a part of what became later known as “Natty Force”, company A under the commander Shemuel Avi-Shaul, a handsome and charismatic person.
On Wednesday night we started the journey to the Golan Heights. I was placed in the first vehicle of our little convoy of junior officers on the way for a last briefing at the high command in Zeffatt. For some reason, I set in the front of the first vehicle; I was very tired after the second sleepless night and fell asleep. In one of the many curves of the road I fell out of the open vehicle. The next thing I noticed was that I laid in the middle of the road and car lights were fast approaching me. Somehow I stood up and went to the side of the road. Then I heard people shouting “somebody fell off the vehicle”’ it was pitch dark with fog, and when they asked me where that person is, I just shrugged. Then I went back to my vehicle, set down and passed out. Later on, I felt that someone was gently shaking me and transferring me to the back of the vehicle. Somebody was trying to keep me awake by talking to me and asking about what just happened and who I was. He told me that he came back from Italy and he was a medical student. Later he identified himself as Micha,
the commander of platoon 2. When we arrived at the “front high command” I was ordered to go to the nearby hospital for a checkup. Knowing already how things were, I replied very adamantly that I would go ONLY if Micha accompanied me. At that time Micha was my only hope and I’ll never forget how he helped me. Whomever it was obliged and we went to the hospital. At the hospital, after a quick check the triage decided that I must stay there for a day or two, when I protested, the doctor in charge called somebody and two mail nurses came and by the doctor’s order asked me for my revolver, and to come with them. Till now I don’t know from where I have taken this energy, but somehow, I have taken Micha’s hand or sleeve and pooled him after me, outside of the hospital. We stopped at a distance from the hospital and at five o’clock in the morning I had the audacity to knock on a door and ask the people over there to phone my wife’s parents in Tel-Aviv just to say that all was OK and I was still at the military base. When we joined back, I realized that I did not understand most of the briefing. This was the stage whereby my normal perception of events as a motion picture became slide pictures.
The next thing I remember is that I am on a tank at the “Top Custom House” (העליון המכס בית). I saw our tanks burnt and damaged, and then I saw damaged Syrian tanks, but not burnt tanks too. I stopped my tanks beside one tank and jumped into it to pull out two Kalashnikovs (to replace my revolver), ammunition and a binocular, I felt much better already, yet the lingering headache and the double vision where driving me crazy. It was later on (one hour or one day?) that I remember the air attack. The sun in my eyes, there was no ammunition to the 0.5” caliber machine-gun and we were just standing there waiting for the hit, but the most disturbing issue was: “where is our air force?” It was a very humiliating experience, yet nothing resembling what came after. Those of us who didn’t get hit continued forward.
The next picture was pretty disturbing. As we were pushing forward I heard on the radio from our commander that the Syrians were in a general retreat mode and we should progress quickly to hit them. I remember going fast forward, not the way we were taught to penetrate. After all, we were already in a hostile enemy territory. In the afternoon of that day we got hit badly. I don’t remember anything on the radio, but suddenly I found myself between burning tanks, and on top of a little hill was a burning half-tank. While moving I tried with my “loader” to locate the enemy but could not. Suddenly I saw a tank from our forces coming fast toward my tank. As he came closer, I saw that it was our company second in command. I signaled to him with my hand the known Israeli signal: “what is going on?” (trying to keep radio silence) and he shouted to me over the radio: “take command!” and left in a very high speed. Little that I knew the company ceased to exist at that point including our commander Avi-Shaul that got killed there. I looked to all sides, and other then my tank, the burning tanks and wounded soldiers there was nothing. I told the loader (I don’t remember his name and have no clue about his whereabouts) that I was going down to help the injured, he went out from his compartment just to shove me back down to my little cell and added that there was a war out there and my crew needed me more. Relaying on his expertise, (he did his service on that type of tank and was familiar with the landscape too) we tried to go up again and fight back. We tried to get into a firing position, and as I was identifying the
tanks at about one hundred meters, I turned the turret and put the gun on target, the gunner screamed: “I see the tank but I cannot get the cannon to go any lower”. At that moment I saw the gun and then the black hole of the Syrian tank’s cannon turning straight on us. I kicked the gunner in the back and told him to shoot anyway. I am not so sure whether he shot or I by passed him, nevertheless, the bullet flew above the Syrian tank with a big bang and for some reason he didn’t shoot at us. I didn’t want to push our luck any further, and we backed down to a safer position.
Not so sure how, but in the next picture I remember, I am in a move to unite with Micha. He was sitting in an abandoned Syrian “turret position” and I moved to a one like this too. I hopped on his deck to talk with him and found out the best line of action, and another surreal sight came at me. I saw his crew reading some pocket books and I could not stop myself from making a point about this “cool” crew. Micha looked at me and replied: “those are not books, those are Psalms!” shortly after, we identified Syrians forces likely infantry in soft trucks coming to our direction, interesting enough they came towards us from the west, where our forces where supposed to be. We did let them come close and from zero distance we shut and hit them.
Then our wounded started somehow to be gathered around us. Again, I don’t remember much, although one event I do remember. The doctor that tried to care for the injured tried unsuccessfully to give infusion to a burnt soldier in his arms. Remembering the previous war I told him to try it close to the ankle, which was not burnt. For a while it was OK until one of the wounded started to suffocate. I said to the doctor, “Listen, you have to operate him”, and he made a cutting move on my throat. The doctor looked at me with a terrible look and said: “you are an officer, how dare you suggest that?” realizing he misunderstood me, I explained to him that there is a special device in his kit that should alleviate the problem by inserting it in the throat. I could see he understood me this time and without delay he successfully performed this procedure/operation. It was after that, that he started to cry to me that he was a gynecologist and not a surgeon and why was he sent there.
After all that, I had a big gap in my memory. The next hour or day I found myself traveling with Lavy Mann, the second in command of our brigade, a very brave and cool man. Somehow, after a day or two, I got a new tank and a new crew. Shemuel Ellion was the driver, Stefan (Steff) Ha’Ellion was the gunner and Tzvika (last name?) was the loader. With this crew I lived through the rest of this damned war. We were all under the command of Yaacov Karni, a leader and a brave man. At that time, I started to get out of my concussion, my vision improved and I had less of a headache. It also helped that we were now in a routine of a long war, no surprises anymore. We were still suffering from poor supplies and no communication with our loved one at home. Most of the stories were told already and most of them are with a happy end.
I like to take this opportunity and wish all of you the best in life. I think we all earned it. December 1, 2013, Edmonton Alberta, Canada