Haim Avraham, who will turn 65 this Yom Haatzmaot since he was born the very day that Israel was declared to be a state and presently lives in Netanya, has dedicated many years of his life serving in the Israel Defense Forces in a combat unit. He fought in the Six Day War, the Yom Kippur War, and in Lebanon. In fact, for ten entire years, every three months, he would be sent to Lebanon on reserve duty for 31 days. He did not fully complete his army service until the age of 52. Haim is very proud of his time serving in the IDF in a combat unit and educated his children to not only seek to serve in the IDF, but to also partake in combat units as well.

Haim claims that the Six Day War was the easiest war that he fought in, since it only lasted six days and Israel had the advantage since she decided to do a preemptive strike. Nevertheless, while fighting during the Six Day War, he did have some near death experiences. While fighting within the Gaza Strip against Egyptian forces, the Arabs killed his commander, Benny Kali, who was standing so close to Haim that Benny’s body fell right on top of him. So, Haim was forced to run and carry Benny’s body. Then, Haim heard that a grenade was heading in his direction. So, he dropped Benny’s body and ran. It was a good thing that he did that, for the grenade landed directly on top of Benny’s body, implying that Haim would have been killed had he not done what he did.

Another near death experience that occurred during the Six Day War was when he wanted to sleep in some IDF truck, but his commanders told Haim that he should sleep on the ground outside since they wanted to sleep within the truck. As it turned out, the Egyptians blew up this IDF truck while the officers were asleep inside, so Haim survived thanks to the fact that he slept in a less comfortable place.

Yet, as bad as those two near death incidents were, Haim insists that it was child’s play compared to the Yom Kippur War. As he was fighting as a reserve paratrooper in the Yom Kippur War, he didn’t even know if he would manage to survive the war; that is how horrible the situation was. At that time, he had a new home, wife and baby. In the area where Haim was fighting, the Egyptians in the Sinai had the upper ground, while the Israelis below were getting mowed down. Two people within his unit, one named Avraham and the other one named Haim, perished in this war; this thought gives him goose bumps to date.

The Egyptians had rockets that could destroy airplanes. Every Israeli helicopter that tried to cross the Suez River was taken down. They had to cross the river in order to take care of the Egyptians. When the Egyptians saw that the Israelis succeeded to do this, they started to shoot randomly and even took down some of their own people. The battle to cross the canal was so difficult; there were explosions every where and many dead. He was inside a hole in the ground and prayed to G-d to save his life, even if he becomes disabled. It was hell. Yet the worst part is that for a month and a half, he couldn’t telephone or even send letters to his family. No one within his family at that time knew how he was doing.

While because of his advanced age Haim merely worked as a truck driver in Lebanon, it nevertheless was a very dangerous experience since there were explosions every where and unlike the situation during the Six Day War, there was no end in sight. During one such case that personally affected Haim, a soldier whom he was supposed to escort decided to leave his truck and take another one in order to be near his friend. That truck exploded. Thus, as a result, this soldier died. The choice of which truck to take made all the difference between life and death!

For Haim, serving in the Israel Defense Forces was a life-changing experience. Growing up, since he was the first boy to be born after his mother endured many miscarriages and had several girls, Haim was quite spoiled. His parents often wondered how he was going to survive the IDF. Thanks to his military service, Haim is no longer a spoiled person but a hero. As Israel commemorates Yom Ha-Zikhron and celebrates Yom Haatzmaot, it is important to remember the stories of Israelis such as Haim Avraham. It is thanks to their dedicated service that Israel exists as a state today.

By Rachel Avraham