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The first battle against a real army


Confrontation with Egyptian forces
Uri Avnery Social activist
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באותו זמן לא היו לנו לא אווירונים, לא טנקים, לא תותחים, נשק קל, מקסימום היו מכונות ירייה, מקלעים כבדים. ומולנו עמדו צבאות שהם היו צבאות סדירים עם כל הנשק הזה. עד אותו יום היינו פעילים בדרך תל-אביב-ירושלים. מאותו רגע, עוד ביום, ירדנו דרומה. הגענו לשדה תעופה אנגלי בשם תל נוף. כשהגענו לשמה נעצרנו לפני השער, מחכים ומחכים ומחכים ולא קרה כלום. אחרי כמה זמן זה נראה לנו מוגזם, שלחנו מישהו קדימה לראות מה קורה. אז הנהג של האוטו הראשון, של המשאית הראשונה, פשוט נרדם, ואנחנו כולנו חיכינו. אז הלכנו לשם, תפסנו ביתן, והתחיל פרק חדש. בדרך לשם עברנו בגדרה, וראינו שם שצוותות של צעירים עוברים מבית לבית לפנות את האוכלוסייה, או לרשום את האוכלוסייה לפינוי, אני חושב. וראינו שזה מתחיל להיות רציני. מדרום לגדרה, כמה קילומטרים, תפסנו רכס של גבעות ואמרו לנו להתחפר והתחילה המלחמה שלנו בצבא המצרי. הצבא המצרי התקדם בכביש החוף עד איסדוד – אשדוד הערבית, והגיע גם לרמלה. סליחה, חיל החלוץ שלהם הגיע ליבנה, יִבְּנֵה בערבית, שזה היה כ-22 קילומטר מתל-אביב. כיום יש ויכוח אם הם התכוונו להמשיך לתל-אביב, או להיעצר שם, מפני ששם היה בעצם הגבול של המדינה היהודית שקבע האו"ם. אני נוטה לחשוב שלולא הייתה התנגדות, הם היו ממשיכים. לא יודע. כך אנחנו על כל פנים היינו בטוחים. הפיקוד החליט שאנחנו נתקוף. כמו ששמעון אבידן, מפקד החטיבה שלנו בגבעתי אחר-כך אמר: בין הצבא המצרי ובין תל-אביב היה כלום, פחות מחטיבה של חיל רגלים בלי נשק. ואז הפיקוד של החטיבה החליט שבמצב כזה צריכים לתקוף, כל הזמן לתקוף, כדי שלא יהיה להם זמן לחשוב לתקוף אותנו. ולכן החליטו לקחת את כל החטיבה ולהסתער על העמדה הצפונית של המצרים, שזה היה איסדוד –  אשדוד. אשדוד עוד לא הייתה קיימת כל הגדוד הלך. כל הגדוד: חובשים, טבחים, הכל.‏


At that time, we had no planes, no tanks, no artillery, small arms at most.  We had machine guns, heavy machine guns, and facing us were armies which were professional, well-armed armies. Until then, we had been operating along the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem route. From that moment, that very same day, we went south. We reached an English-controlled airport called Tel Nof. When we arrived we were stopped in front of the gate. We waited and waited and waited, but nothing happened. After a while, which seemed exaggerated to us, we sent someone ahead to see what was going on. Then the driver of the first car, the first truck, simply fell asleep, and we all waited. So we went there, commandeered a hut, and a new chapter started. On the way there we passed Gedera, and we saw teams of young people going from house to house evacuating the population, or registering the population for evacuation, I think. And we saw that it was starting to get serious. South of Gedera, a few kilometers away, we captured a ridge of hills and were told to dig in, and that was the beginning of our war with the Egyptian army.

The Egyptian army was advancing along the coastal road to Isdud − the Arabic Ashdod – and also reached Ramla. Sorry, their vanguard had reached Yavneh, Ibneh in Arabic, which was about 22 kilometers from Tel Aviv. Today there is a debate about whether they had intended to continue to Tel Aviv, or to stop there because there was, in fact, the border of the Jewish State that had been established by the United Nations. I am inclined to think that, if there had not been any resistance, they would have continued. I don't know. That way, at any rate, we were certain. The Command decided that we should attack. As Shimon Avidan, the Commander of our regiment in Givati later said, there was nothing between the Egyptian army and Tel Aviv except for an infantry regiment without weapons. Then the Command of the Brigade decided that in this situation one needs to attack, always attack, so that they will not have time to think about attacking us. And so they decided to take the entire Brigade and attack the Egyptians' northern position, which was Isdud − Ashdod. Ashdod did not yet exist. The entire squadron went, the whole squadron − medics, cooks, everything.

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: Tel Nof, Gedera, Yavneh, Givati, Tel Aviv, Shimon Avidan

Duration: 4 minutes, 40 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 10 March 2017