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Carrying my first dead body


Joining the army
Uri Avnery Social activist
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I signed up immediately.  I remained another two or three weeks to hand my work over to my successors, and I joined up.  And here, where today the Hilton stands, was Camp Yona. That was where I trained. And on 1 April 1948, they took us from the Yona camp to Tel Aviv port when it was still active.  And we waited for a day or two in tents until a ship appeared on the horizon: a boat loaded with Czech weapons that had been sent by Stalin. We spent the night cleaning the weapons which were covered in grease. Each of us cleaned our own new rifle. These were guns from the Škoda Works in the Czech Republic – Czechoslovakia at that time – which had been manufactured for the German Wehrmacht. But unfortunately, the Wehrmacht collapsed before the weapons arrived so they were left with a large inventory of guns. Some still had a swastika engraved on them. Stalin decided to send us these guns, as well as machine guns. We sat there at the Tel Aviv Port, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning the weapons. On April 3rd, at 04.00 am, they woke us up. We were loaded on to buses and they took us out of Tel Aviv. By 04.00 or 05.00 am the city was completely abandoned, completely. Etched in my memory is a scene, that in this empty and abandoned city, on Rothschild Boulevard near Habima, there was an old man wearing a hat and when he saw us pass − and we were singing with all our might, 'Believe, the day will come' − he removed his hat. It moved me then, and it moves me now.

התגייסתי מיד. עוד שהיתי איזה שבועיים-שלושה בשביל למסור את העבודות שלי ליורשים שלי, והתגייסתי. ופה, איפה שהיום עומד הילטון, היה מחנה יונה. שמה התאמנתי. וב-1 באפריל 1948 הובילו אותנו ממחנה יונה לנמל תל אביב, שאז עוד היה פעיל. וחיכינו יום-יומיים באוהלים, עד שהופיעה אוניה באופק. אוניה מלאה נשק צ’כי, שנשלח על ידי סטאלין. בילינו לילה בלנקות את הנשק, הוא היה מלא גריז. כל אחד ניקה את הרובה שלו החדש. אלה היו רובים, שמפעלי סקודה בצ'כיה, צ'כוסלובקיה של אז, ייצרו למען הוורמכט הגרמני. אבל למרבה הצער, הוורמכט קרס לפני שהרובים הגיעו אז נשארו עם מלאי גדול של רובים. על אחדים היה עוד חריצה של צלב קרס. וסטאלין החליט לשלוח לנו את הרובים האלה, וגם מכונות ירייה. ישבנו שם בנמל תל אביב, ניקינו, ניקינו, ניקינו את הנשק. ב-3 באפריל בארבע בבוקר העירו אותנו, העמיסו אותנו על אוטובוסים והוציאו אותנו מתל אביב. בארבע-חמש בבוקר העיר הייתה לגמרי-לגמרי נטושה. נחרטה בזכרוני סצינה, שבעיר הנטושה הריקה הזאת, בשדרות רוטשילד ליד הבימה, עומד יקה זקן, קשיש, עם מגבעת וכשראה אותנו עוברים, ואנחנו שרנו בכל הכוח "האמיני יום יבוא”, אז הוא הוריד את הכובע. מאוד ריגש אותי אז, גם עכשיו.‏

Uri Avnery (1923-2018) was an Israeli writer, journalist and founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement. As a teenager, he joined the Zionist paramilitary group, Irgun. Later, Avnery was elected to the Knesset from 1965 to 1974 and from 1979 to 1981. He was also the editor-in-chief of the weekly news magazine, 'HaOlam HaZeh' from 1950 until it closed in 1993. He famously crossed the lines during the Siege of Beirut to meet Yasser Arafat on 3 July 1982, the first time the Palestinian leader ever met with an Israeli. Avnery was the author of several books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including '1948: A Soldier's Tale, the Bloody Road to Jerusalem' (2008); 'Israel's Vicious Circle' (2008); and 'My Friend, the Enemy' (1986).

Listeners: Anat Saragusti

Anat Saragusti is a film-maker, book editor and a freelance journalist and writer. She was a senior staff member at the weekly news magazine Ha'olam Hazeh, where she was prominent in covering major events in Israel. Uri Avnery was the publisher and chief editor of the Magazine, and Saragusti worked closely with him for over a decade. With the closing of Ha'olam Hazeh in 1993, Anat Saragusti joined the group that established TV Channel 2 News Company and was appointed as its reporter in Gaza. She later became the chief editor of the evening news bulletin. Concurrently, she studied law and gained a Master's degree from Tel Aviv University.

Tags: Joseph Stalin

Duration: 2 minutes, 39 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 10 March 2017