Preface: On the eve of Yom Kippur, we remember the 2,688 Israeli Soldiers killed in the Yom Kippur War of 1973, who fell defending their country against 6 invading Arab armies. This poem is written in the memory of an unknown tanker in the 7th Armored Brigade on the Golan Heights.
On October 6th, the Syrian army attacked the Golan Heights with five divisions: two armored and three mechanized infantry, including some 1,400 tanks. Approximately 400 of those tanks were T-62s, the most modern Soviet-bloc tank at the time, equipped with 115mm guns and infrared night-fighting capability. They met an unprepared Israeli force of 170 tanks (all of which lacked night-vision) and 70 artillery pieces spread out across a 36-mile border. The Syrian 3d armored division and 7th infantry division attacked the Israeli 7th Armored Brigade in the area between Mount Hermon and a southern ridge known as “Booster.” The Syrians started the offensive with an artillery barrage, and penetrated the Israeli defenses at night with the help of night vision equipment—equipment that the Israelis lacked. The next day, the Syrians mounted a second attack, and at one point in the engagement less than 40 Israeli tanks, some of whom were out of ammunition, faced approximately 500 Syrian tanks. On the fourth day, the 7th Brigade received a small reinforcement force when it was down to about a dozen tanks and almost completely out of ammunition, and turned the battle to an offensive against the Syrians.*
When I was 18, I left home for college, & became an adult. When he was 18, he finished training, and became a fighter.
When I was 18, my teachers taught me to think critically & analyze texts. When he was 18, his teachers taught him to shoot a tank and analyze enemy positions.
When I was 18, I studied the map of my University campus, and learned the way from my dorm to the classroom. When he was 18, he studied the Golan Heights, and learned the route through the hills to the battlefields.
When I was 18, I asked God’s forgiveness on Yom Kippur, and His guidance, that I might live an honorable life. When he was 18, he asked God’s courage on Yom Kippur, and His guidance, that he might defend his country with honor.
When I was 18, I cherished my relationship with God. When he was 18, he questioned his relationship with God.
On Yom Kippur of my 18th year, I lifted my voice, and sang out for forgiveness. On Yom Kippur of his 18th year, he lifted his Uzi, and his bullets sang out their fury.
On Yom Kippur of my 18th year, I held beliefs that were unfounded, smug in the confidence of my youth. On Yom Kippur of his 18th year, he held the Northern border in a tank without ammunition, fearful of the imminent Syrian offensive.
When I was 18, I was called up to the classroom to speak to my fellow students. When he was 18, he was called up to Heaven to meet his fellow heroes: Judah Maccabee, Simeon Bar Kochba, and Yosef Trumpeldor.
When I was 18, I began my journey through adulthood. When he was 18, he ended his journey through this world.
On Yom Kippur of my 18th year, I studied the Torah, prayed, and lived. On Yom Kippur of his 18th year, he studied field maps, fought, and lives now in each of us.
Inspired by Rabbi Howard Kahn’s “At My Bar Mitzvah-and His.”