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Training to be a squad commander


How I met the future chief of the general staff
Uri Avnery Social activist
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צ'רה היה בחור מאוד נבון. הוא נראה כמו סטודנט כזה. ההיכרות הראשונה שלי אתו הייתה לפני הקרבות הגדולים, כשהיו עוד הקרבות הראשונים הקטנים נגד המצרים. אז היינו במקום שנקרא בית דראס, ליד באר טוביה, שנחרת בזיכרוני בעיקר בגלל דבר אחד: היו בו מיליארדים של פרעושים. היינו מכוסים ולא עזר שום דבר. מול בית דראס היה מקום שנקרא גבעה 69. הגבעות בארץ אז נקראו במספרים לפי הגובה. גובה של 67 מטרים. וגבעה 67 (הכוונה 69) שעדיין קיימת מיוחדת בזה שיש עליה שלושה מגדלי מים מימי הצבא הבריטי עם צורה מאוד מיוחדת. והמצרים באחד הלילות כבשו אותה. ואז ביניהם ובין תל אביב באמת היה כלום. פלוגה אחת או שתיים של חיל רגלים. ואנחנו נקראנו מהר לסתום את החור. זה היה לפני שנהיינו "שועלי שמשון". ובעוד אנחנו יושבים שם, באה משאית עם תחמושת דרך השדה. השדה היה פתוח. המצרים התחילו להפגיז אותה בפגזים, והיה פחד נוראי. דבר כזה ייפגע, תהיה התפוצצות איומה. משאית מלאה בפגזים, בתחמושת. חיפשו מתנדבים. אני כתבתי כל הזמן כתבות ל"הארץ", לעיתון הערב של “הארץ”, ״יום-יום”, ולכן אני חיפשתי חוויות, וזו הייתה חוויה, אז התנדבתי. ואני ועוד נהג, נדמה לי שעוד חייל, ברגל הגענו למשאית. הנהג התניע אותה, ואנחנו התחלנו להביא אותה בכל המהירות האפשרית לבאר טוביה. ובדרך לבאר טוביה, בשדה הפתוח המחורבן הזה, בא לקראתנו ג'יפ ויושב בפנים איזה בחורצ'יק שנראה כמו סטודנט שנה אל״ף, ואנחנו צעקנו לו: "אידיוט, תחזור מהר לבאר טוביה”. ה"אידיוט" הזה היה צ’רה. זה היה ההיכרות הראשונה שלי עם צ'רה. למה אני מספר את זה? אחרי שהגשנו את העצומה הזאת לעבור מהפלוגה, אז מקבלים הודעה: "תתאספו בחדר אוכל, צ'רה רוצה לדבר אתכם". צ'רה היה איש מאוד חכם. הוא אמר: "תראו, אני מבין אתכם, מגיעה לכם חופשה. בהחלט. אבל אי-אפשר. אין לי חיילים. אז אנחנו בואו נסדר שכל שבוע כיתה אחת תצא לחופשה.” או קיי. עשינו פשרה, וכך היה.

Chera [Zvi Zur], was a very wise man. He looked like a student. My first encounter with him was before the major battles when the first small battles against the Egyptians were still continuing. Then we were in a place called Beit Daras, near Be'er Tuvia, which is engraved in my memory mainly because of one thing: there were billions of fleas. We were covered in them and nothing helped.

Opposite Beit Daras was a place called Hill 69. The hills in Israel at that time were identified by numbers according to their height. A height of 67 metres. Hill 67 [sic] still exists. And what was special about it is that there were three water towers on it from the time of the British Army and they had a very special shape. The Egyptians captured it one night. At that time, between these towers and Tel Aviv, there really was nothing. One or two infantry squadrons. And we were quickly called to plug the gap. That was before we became Samson's Foxes. And while we were sitting there a truck with ammunition came through the field. The field was open. The Egyptians began to bombard it with shells, and we were terrified. If something like that would get hit there would be a terrible explosion. A truck full of shells, ammunition. They looked for volunteers. I was all the time writing articles for Haaretz, for the evening edition which was called Yom-Yom, so I was on the look-out for experiences, and this was an experience! So I volunteered. I and another driver, I think another soldier. We reached the truck on foot. The driver started the engine and we began to drive it as quickly as possible towards Be'er Tuvia. On the way to Be'er Tuvia, in this dreadful open field, a jeep drove towards us and a fellow was sitting in it who looked like a first-year student, and we shouted at him: 'Idiot, get back to Beer Tuvia!' The 'idiot' was Chera. It was my first encounter with him. Why am I saying this? After we filed the petition to transfer from the squadron, we got a message: 'Gather in the dining room. Chera wants to talk to you'. Chera was a very clever man. He said: 'Look, I understand you, you deserve a vacation. Definitely. But it is impossible. I have no soldiers. So let's arrange that every week one squad will go on vacation'. Okay. We made a compromise, and that's how it was.

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: Beit Daras, Be'er Tuvia, Zvi Zur, Chera

Duration: 4 minutes, 3 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 10 March 2017