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Tamir Yohanan

Written By Theo Symonds

I was four when I was first told to sit still and be silent. This was not because I

was an ill-behaved child. Oh no no. It was because the life of the entire Yohanan family
depended on silence. One sound could get us caught. At the time, I didnt know why.
Sometimes I would question why we hid in a basement. I often wondered why we all fell
silent when armed men walked into the kitchen above us. I would look up and see
through the wooden slats of the kitchen floor, and noticed dozens of soldiers
questioning the old man that let us hide in his basement. Everytime after they left, the
Yohanan family breathed out sighs of relief and my dad would murmur lehizdayen

Hanukkah eve, uncle Itzhar never came home from the market. Daddy looked

uneasy while talking to mama. They were whispering, and all I could make out was Its
not safe here. The next thing I knew, we were frantically packing what little we had and
ran through the backalleys under the cover of darkness. As the sun rose, we boarded a
ship that was en-route to Palestine[2]. I cant remember much about the boat, only that it
had a better bed than the basement did. I probably cant remember the trip because I
was sleeping the whole time.

When we disembarked from the boat into Palestine, we were greeted by British

soldiers[3]. Daddy gave me one of his history lessons about how the British had

colonized the Middle East after taking it from the Ottoman Empire. I enjoyed listening to
his lessons. He was so smart and he knew a lot about the world.
The whole Yohanan family passed the immigration check with ease. The British were so
welcoming. The Palestinians however, were not.

It was difficult living in a Palestinian-dominant neighborhood. Palestinians were

never able to warm up to Jews[4]. I couldnt play with their kids, I couldnt talk to them,
and worse is that I couldnt walk down the street without getting hurtful words thrown at
me. I didnt understand why there was such hate. As I grew up, I learned that the
Palestinians did not want Jewish presence in Palestine. It must have annoyed the
Palestinians when the Jewish people created the nation of Israel[5]. They got so mad
that they attacked and invaded our newly formed nation. Thats when daddy was drafted
into the army to defend Israel[6].

Israel won the independence war, and more importantly, daddy survived it.

However, he died 20 years later from a heart attack. Funny how a man can be so close
to death and survive, to later die in an unexpected way. But we accepted it, and we had
family reunions every year on the day of his death. Aunts and uncles would bring
delicious food dishes. Mama always made the best kishka[7]. The reunions were a great
time to see the Yohanan family grow. Brothers had girlfriends, cousins got married,
uncles had more babies... It was always a joy to watch little Yohanans running around. I
never married. No one in the family could understand why. Heck, even I didnt know


I never wanted to fight in a war, let alone be in the army. Right before he died,

daddy enlisted me into the 55th Paratrooper Brigade. After a year of suffering the
mental anguishes of non-active military life, I finally saw action. In 1967, the entire
Middle East attacked Israel[8]. My Brigade was deployed onto the Jordan front. We took
Jerusalem, and moved into the Palestinian area of West Bank. It took us a day to
secure it[9]. I fought alongside young men, good men that didnt deserve to die. Our
brigade had heavy casualties, but nothing compared to what the Palestinians lost. After
the successful take-over of West Bank, our commanding officers told us that Israeli
troops were to remain in the area to free the Palestinians. After my first patrol, I
realized that it was not a freedom campaign. We started an occupation.

Patrols became a daily routine. I woke up, got my gear, and set off with the rest

of my patroling platoon. We usually patrolled for eight hours every day, with a lunch
break of course. We probably patrolled about 2 or 3 Palestinian villages a day. All that
we did was walked and talked, policed the area, and sometimes entered Palestinian
homes to arrest or execute someone.

Ive remembered a lot of things in my life. However, no memory is clearer than

the night of August 15th. It was 2300 hours, and Officer Katzir woke up Private Rahmiel
and I to go on what he called a special mission. That was the only information I had. I
drove the jeep all the way to the Palestinian village of Artas. Officer Katzir instructed me

to follow him down a narrow street, and told Private Rahmiel to stay with the jeep. Katzir
and I walked for ten minutes without saying a word. He suddenly stopped ahead of me.
-Do you hear that? he asked.
-Hear what? This village is silent. I replied.
-Exactly he exlaimed. Silence. They know we are here.
-Whos they? I asked.
-The Palestinian terrorists. They are in that house at one-oclock from our position. he
pointed. We are here to execute them.

We crouched next to the door. Katzir told me to lock and load. He got up to kick down
the door, and right as he was about to do so, he turned to me and said Remember, no
Palestinian in this house should be left alive.

It was quite strange to kick down a door with no one in the room behind it. Katzir

searched the house, yelling and cussing while doing so. His finger was dancing on the
trigger of his pistol. I looked down at my hands, and noticed that they were shaking
uncontrollably on my EM-2 Rifle[10]. As Katzir calmed down and we were ready to leave,
a sound stopped us dead in our tracks; a sneeze. This sneeze came from under the
floor. Katzir frantically searched the house again, this time discovering a secret stairway
that lead to a basement. I saw a dozen unarmed Palestinians with their hands in the air.
Katzir began firing with fury. Id never seen so much anger and violence in a mans eye
until then. After he emptied his clip, he breathed heavily, and waited. After all the smoke
had dissipated, he turned to walk away. A four year old boy sprang up from behind his

dead mother and ran. The little boy ran past Katzir, up the stairs, out of the door, and
into a neighboring field, where he kept running. I stood in the doorway, watching him run
for his life.
-Shoot him! yelled Katzir.
-Sir, hes just a boy.
-Im ordering you Tamir. Do not let him escape.

I had the boy in the crosshairs of my rifles sight. I took a deep breath and hesitated.
Shoot him like the Palestinian dog that he is yelled Katzir. I shuddered and closed my
eyes. My finger came into contact with the cold, rusty trigger. All I had to do was pull it. I
cancelled out the noise of Katzirs yelling and meditated the moment that was occuring.
I pulled the trigger. The bang of the rifle blew a ringing in my ears. I was deaf, but just by
looking, I heard that boys body hit the ground. I had never reflected back to my
childhood until that moment.
I managed to escape my basement. The boy did not.

My rifle fell to the ground and I ran. I ran without even knowing that I was running. I
didnt know anything in that moment. My minds was blank . My soul, was absent from
My soul has not returned.

-So tell me Lieutenant, is that all you need?

-Thank you for telling us your story Tamir. It was
-Well that would be an understatement. But yes, interesting You do realize that you
are going to jail for desertion, right?
-Yes I realize that.
-Or even worse, execution by firing squad.
-Hahaha, theres worse.

1. Translation: Damn Nazis.
2. 20th century movement where Jewish people migrated back to Palestine to establish
a Jewish nation in Palestine.
3. The British set up and controlled the Mandate of Palestine from 1920-1948.
4. Jews have had claim to Palestininan land dating back to 3000 years ago (in the
Torah). Palestinians claim the land to be theirs since the Islamic Empire conquered
that area in the 8th century.
5. May 14th, 1948: Jews in Palestine declare independence and form the nation of
6. The day after Israel was created, Arab nations attacked and invaded Israel. Israel
won, and took a lot of land from Palestinians.
7. A traditional Jewish dish made in Eastern Europe. It is pork intestine filled with meat
and grain.
8. June 5th, 1967. Six Day War: Conflict between Israel and Arab nations in which Israel
took Gaza + The Sinai Peninsula from Egypt and West Bank from Jordan.
9. On the 4th and 5th day of the Six Day War, Israeli 55th Paratrooper Brigade took East
Jerusalem and West Bank, in two days.
10. EM-2 Rifle is a British designed automatic assault-rifle, used by some Israeli
soldiers in the 1950s and 1960s.