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1948: A Soldier's Tale – the Bloody Road to Jerusalem

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Lucky to be alive
Uri Avnery Social activist
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Fortunately, the second squad commander who was also one of the veterans, ran to get my soldiers. Four of my soldiers ran under fire to get me, and they got me out of there, four Moroccans. And the armoured car we came in took me quickly to squadron headquarters. The jeep, I think, took me to the hospital which was near Rehovot, Kfar Bilu. I was in terrible pain. They didn't give me morphine because we were not allowed to give morphine. Our medic said, 'We must not give morphine for a wound in the stomach'. So all the way, with the jeep bouncing and so on, I was fully conscious. We reached the hospital. There was a giant doctor from the Soviet army with a lot of experience of combat injuries, and right away they anesthetized me and operated on me. Later he told me I had been lucky because if I had arrived an hour or two later, it would have been too late. That's it – I was injured. I lay in that hospital for a week or two after the surgery. I didn't eat, didn't drink. They inserted a feeding tube to feed me artificially, like they want to do now with prisoners on hunger strike. I was thirsty all the time, so I kept drinking. I really loved red strawberry juice, and it was like a farce. I drank. It went down to my stomach where the feeding tube got hold of it and brought it back out through the tube. That's how it went on, all day. Recycling. It was really funny. Only at the time it didn't make me laugh. I couldn't sleep. I think for a couple of weeks I didn't really sleep. But I read a lot. What did I read? I fell in love with the English writer Somerset Maugham and read all of his books in English. And I had time to do some serious thinking. Two weeks later I was sent to a convalescent home in Givat Brenner with all kinds of wounded soldiers. I particularly remember a young man. He seemed about 17 years old. They amputated his hands and removed his eye. My Moroccans friends came to visit me. My soldiers. I really connected with them. That had a great impact on me. We'll get to that, I think, the ethnic problem.

למזלי המ״ם כ״ף השני, שגם היה מהוותיקים, רץ להביא את החיילים שלי. ארבעה מהחיילים שלי רצו אלי ממש תחת אש והוציאו אותי משם, ארבעה מרוקאים. והמשוריין שבו באנו לקח אותי מהר למטה הפלוגה. הג'יפ אני חושב לקח אותי לבית החולים שהיה ליד רחובות שם, כפר ביל”ו. היו לי כאבי איימים. לא נתנו לי מורפיום, מפני שאסור לתת מורפיום. החובש שלנו אמר 'אסור לתת מורפיום בפצע בבטן'. אז כל הדרך הזאת עם הג'יפים, הקפיצות וכו' עברתי בהכרה מלאה. הגענו לבית החולים. היה רופא ענק מהצבא הסובייטי, עם הרבה ניסיון של פציעות קרביות, ומיד פשוט הרדימו אותי וניתחו אותי. אחר כך הוא אמר לי שזה מזל שהגעתי, מפני שאם הייתי מגיע שעה או שעתיים יותר מאוחר, זה היה מאוחר מדי. זהו, אז נפצעתי. שכבתי באותו בית חולים שבוע או שבועיים אחרי הניתוח. לא אכלתי, לא שתיתי. הכניסו לי זונדה בהזנה מלאכותית, כמו שרוצים עכשיו לעשות לשובתי הרעב. והייתי צמא כל הזמן, אז כל הזמן שתיתי. נורא אהבתי מיץ תות שדה אדמדם כזה, אז היה מחזה ככה היתולי כאילו. שתיתי, ירד לקיבה, שמה תפס אותו הזונדה שלי, הוציא אותו בחזרה דרך צינור וככה כל היום, מחזור. זה היה ממש מצחיק. רק שבאותה עת זה לא הצחיק אותי. ולא יכולתי לישון. אני חושב שאיזה שבועיים לא ישנתי ממש. וקראתי. המון. מי קראתי? התאהבתי בסופר אנגלי בשם סומרסט מוהם וקראתי באנגלית את כל הספרים של סומרסט מוהם. והיה לי זמן לחשוב היטב. אחרי שבועיים שלחו אותי לבית הבראה בגבעת ברנר עם כל מיני חיילים פצועים. במיוחד אני זוכר בחור צעיר. בן 17 הוא נראה לי, שפתחו לו את הידיים, הוציאו לו עין. והחברים שלי המרוקאים באו לבקר אותי. החיילים שלי. מאוד התקשרתי אתם. הייתה לזה השפעה רבה מאוד. עוד נגיע לזה אני חושב, לבעייה העדתית.‏

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: Kfar Bilu, Givat Brenner, Somerset Maugham

Duration: 4 minutes

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 10 March 2017