Allyson Altit

A Reflection and Interview: 41 years since Yom Kippur 1973 Ami was 20 years old and in the Golani.

I began by asking my husband for a brief reflection and his personal story of 41 years ago on Yom Kippur.

Ami was wounded on the second day of the Yom Kippur War at age 20. He was in the Golan Heights as a soldier in the Golani Unit. It happened in the blink of an eye he recalled. Ami said the first question one asks is why and how did this happen to me? At that time, he was relatively young in age, but quickly realized he did not understand the whole picture of what occurred and how large a war had exploded. He said, “I was only aware of my surroundings. Which was full of wounded and killed fellow soldiers and friends.”

Approximately 5 hours later he was evacuated from the Golan Heights but reality NEVER set in to his mind. It became more difficult to comprehend the magnitude of the Yom Kippur war. He tried not to focus on his situation because he was constantly confronted with more wounded soldiers than he ever imagined-many worse than him. Although, initially the doctors had given him his own bad news as he lay flat on his back in Ram Bam Hospital for a few months, they did not think he would walk again but best case he would need to depend on two crutches.

When officials came to the hospital to tell him that he could not be in the army anymore, this due to his disability, that was another devastating day. Apparently he was marked with a high disability and at that point he was to become a case for the Ministry of Defense he was told. Ami wanted to return to the army very much, and so this part of his situation was also quite painful.

Ami could not live at home because he was unable to climb stairs, obviously, and he was classified as disabled with 70 % disability which was extremely shocking and difficult to accept. He said, “To be told as a young man who had maximum performance from his body, and fought in an elite unit, that now he needed to live at the rehab center was even harder to comprehend.” The rehab center was the only place that could accommodate him and try and help heal him back to a relatively normal life. He was then transferred to Beit Kay in Nahariya and for 3 years he would live there.

Beit Kay was one of the rehab centers for the wounded soldiers located in the north. It was considered the best at that time. They really provided all they could for the soldiers to make a nice life under their circumstances. They focused on distracting them by conducting a variety of workshops where they were involved in creative projects as a part of the distraction in between all the physical therapy of course. Over the course of his 3 years over there soldiers were continuously being admitted. Ami was able to attend the Technion as they provided transportation to and from for him to pursue his education and ultimately he did earn his degree. The defense decided once he could get around on two crutches they would send him to driving school and furnish him with a high quality car.

He said he never really came to terms with what happened to him or to his fellow soldiers and good friends. He went on to say, “I saw soldiers in much worse condition than I go through hell and so I didn’t even think of my injury as much as one would think so.” His peers were left without arms and legs and eyes and burnt beyond description. Therefore his 70% disability in his mind was not the worst, even as much as it changed the course of his life.

On of our daughters recently asked if her father still reflects on how he felt before the war and then after it. Ami said he thinks about friends that he lost in the war and the life that they could have had. Prior to war he never thought that anything so severe would happen to any of these guys throughout their duty in the army. She also wanted to know how the other soldiers felt. Ami recalls how there wasn’t conversation about feelings in those days; however there were updates on soldiers that were killed or wounded and all that they had gone through.

I asked Ami if he was afraid when he and his platoon were attacked. He answered he was not afraid but was worried. He said he didn’t have time to think about fear but rather was concerned how the war would unfold. And then it did, fast.

Ami went on to speak how he feels badly for soldiers today because they do not realize how traumatic the war will be for them ultimately. He would encourage them to talk about the war they were in with professionals. He said in his day post traumatic stress disorder was unknown. It could have been very helpful for him and his friends if there was more knowledge regarding the psychological impact and the scarring that they all encountered.

Ami said he believes that when soldiers enter war today their mind set is the same as in his day-they are concerned and worried about the unknown. He stated that those soldiers, as in his experience, are not afraid, otherwise they could not be a soldier.

Ami’s view is that all wars are the same for soldiers whether it be a large or small scale. Each army unit just needs to focus on their designated area. When he watches the wars of today the only difference in his opinion is that they are fighting against terrorists which he points out are just as equipped to fight. This is the other difference for Israel too, he said that when Israel fights they aren’t up against an army. It is a war with the enemy (the terrorist) and those enemies fight from all different areas including planting themselves in between civilians which makes the war that much more difficult to handle.

Ami does not believe the conflict could ever resolve.

We are married over 31 years and never really got into his story in depth. Over the years as our daughters grew up their curiosity would spark annually on the night of Yom Kippur as we returned from Synagogue in the evening and sat together into the night. Little stories here and there would be told when the girls were much younger and asked their father about the Yom Kippur war in ’73. This experience that Ami has shared means a lot to us.

About the Author
Allyson Altit is from New York. She has worked in the travel industry for over 30 years as a leisure specialist. Her area of expertise is in European destinations and Israel. She has been involved with charity work for the Hadassah organization as well. In 2009 she graduated from Queens College majoring in Jewish studies. She has just completed writing her first novel...