In the next few articles I shall attempt to resurrect memories long buried in secret vaults deep inside my mind. Every year, the closer we get to Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, these locked away memories do their best to come to the surface.
I joined the Golani Brigade when I was drafted into service in the IDF. Soon after completing my basic training I interviewed with U., the commander of the 13th Battalion. It was to be patrols on the Syrian border and maneuvers, alternating every now and then. That suited me just fine.
During the month of September 1973 I was stationed on Mount Ben Tal, known to all of us as Tel Abu-Nida. The breeze was heavenly. While the rest of Eretz Israel was sweltering in the late summer heat, my squad and I enjoyed the cool nights of the Golan, and the wonderful breezes of the daylight hours.
The work was interesting and very educational, especially for someone like myself who appreciated the view from this volcanic hill that rose 3600 feet (just over a thousand meters) above Quneitra, a ghost town very much in the news nowadays.
It was September 13, 1973 and I was on an afternoon break. I was listening to several radio broadcasts, some from the BBC, and some from Israel, on a small transistor we had rigged to be powered by lantern batteries. Golani soldiers are virtuosos at rigging stuff. I caught a report that some Syrian MIG 21 aircraft had been shot down over the Mediterranean Sea.
Within a few moments, a more complete report came in that Israel’s air force had downed 13 Syrian fighter jets that had engaged and attacked Israeli jets on routine Israel Air Force activity above international waters.
Although I was still “off duty”, I quickly put my uniform on, checked my weapon and and all the components of my ammunition belt, got my helmet and headed to an area where the rest of my squad was.
I asked them if they had heard the news and they told me that our command headquarters had issued a high state of readiness and a general alert. We waited for a Syrian response on that day, and into the night. We waited the next day, and the day after that, but no response came.
Little did we know that in another twenty three days our lives would change, forever.