Suez1

From CleanPosts

Jump to: navigation, search

On her collective farm after the War of Independence Lilith Gervasi immersed herself in honest toil cultivating the fields and garden crops and occasionally defending the settlement from gunmen who infiltrated from the nearby Gaza Strip to kill Jews simply for being Jews. Sometimes these attacks on Yad Mordechai were followed up by fierce IDF reprisal raids. Lilith was mobilized as a sergeant in the IDF reserves to help guide the counterattacks.

Apart from her trusty British-made rifle Lilith owned very little in the way of personal possessions. She had only her clothing, a radio she shared with the others in the Women’s House, and other such modest things. There were tractors and jeeps, but they belonged to the whole community. All the profits of the kibbutz were pooled together for the needs of the laborers. The children ate and slept apart from their parents, and Lilith, who was attending university part of the time, helped to educate them.

On July 23, 1952 there was a coup in Egypt deposing King Farouk, who had ruled his country since 1936. One of the coup plotters named Colonel Gamal Nasser steadily rose in influence to become the usual President-for-life.

Lilith graduated from Hebrew University in 1953 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the IDF. During her physical examination the IDF doctors noted the mass of keloid whip scars on her back, which limited her range of motion somewhat. They also noted the six numbers tattooed on her arm and knew exactly how she had been disfigured.

In the fall, Lilith returned to Hebrew University to begin her undergraduate academic work. She was interested in the newly-revived Hebrew language, which had been essentially a dead tongue (like Latin) for more than two thousand five hundred years. After the Babylonian Vacation it had fallen out of everyday use by the Jewish people, and this had been true even in the time of Yeshua, who had spoken the Syrian tongue called Aramaic.

Over those twenty-five centuries Hebrew became a rather specialized language spoken only by the scribes and elders in synagogues, and in the Diaspora, when many Jewish communities lost contact with each other, the pronunciation of Hebrew naturally drifted somewhat.

There were marked differences between the way the Shephardi Jews and Ashkenazi Jews spoke Hebrew, and there had been some infiltration of influences from both Russian and Yiddish. When the Zion project was conceived, and European immigrants began to settle in the Levant with the aim of creating a Jewish homeland, the “official” pronunciation of Hebrew was decided by a committee.

But it was wrong at many points, and Lilith knew this because she had spoken to Talishi, who remembered how “biblical” Hebrew had really been spoken. It only remained for Lilith to prove it. This was the challenge that formed the heart of her Masters’ Thesis.

Soon after obtaining her advanced degree she received an elevation in rank to seren, which corresponds to captain.

On July 26, 1956 Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal, seizing control from the British. He closed the Straits of Tirin in the Red Sea, which effectively put the southernmost Israeli port of Eilat under a blockade. At the same time he refused to allow any ships bound for Tel Aviv or Haifa to transit the canal.

The United Kingdom and France laid plans to take the canal back by force, and they were interested in getting Israel involved in this operation. Israel was already leaning toward a tussle with Egypt, the question was not if but when. Cross-border fedayeen raids from the Gaza strip had never ceased in the eight years Egypt had occupied it.

The French began to arm the IDF, especially the air force. And in the third week of October Nasser moved part of his army into Gaza, including a number of artillery pieces, which were used to shell the Israeli settlements near the border, of which Lilith’s kibbutz of Yad Mordechai was the closest. Nasser also moved troops into the Sinai Peninsula, supplied with the latest Soviet military equipment.

On October 29, four Israeli World War II vintage P-51 Mustang fighter planes flew into the Sinai and cut, with their propellers, all the telephone lines connecting the Egyptian forces in Sinai to their home office in Cairo.

On the same afternoon, 395 IDF paratroopers were dropped at Mitla Pass, only fifty miles from the Suez Canal. Meanwhile, a force commanded by Colonel Ariel Sharon crossed the border and seized (through very hard fighting) three Egyptian positions along the 150 miles from Israel to the pass. Sharon then disobeyed orders to halt and proceeded to take Mitla Pass, at a cost of 38 Israeli lives.

On October 31 an Egyptian frigate fired two hundred shells into Haifa from the sea, but a French destroyer drove it off. Two Israeli destroyers then chased it down and opened fire, and later two Israeli warplanes damaged it with rockets. The Egyptian ship surrendered, and it was boarded and towed into Haifa.

Israel fought a fierce series of tank battles for Abu Ageila, and after two days the Egyptians withdrew. From this position, Israel could supply its troops in the central Sinai without an attack from the rear.

On November 2 the IDF seized El Arish on the Sinai Mediterranean coast, which completely isolated the Gaza Strip. By that same evening, the Egyptian governor in Gaza surrendered. The Israelis penetrated to within ten miles of the Suez Canal and took possession of forty Soviet-made T-34 tanks and sixty armored vehicles which were left behind there.

Seren Gervasi’s part in the war began at Eilat and ran down the western shore of the Gulf of Aqaba. The objective was to seize the guns at Sharm el-Sheikh and lift the closure of the Straits of Tiran. Her commander was Colonel Avraham Yoffe, and she was part of a motorized infantry brigade of 1,800 soldiers and 200 vehicles.

Their route was along a camel track that was never designed to be used by wheeled vehicles. At one point at Wadi Zaala they all had to break out their spades, dig their vehicles out of deep sand, and push them uphill.

At Dahab Oasis they had their first firefight against the camel-mounted troops of the Egyptian Frontier Force. They also were supplied with fuel from boats sent down the Gulf of Aqaba from Eilat. Meanwhile, a detachment of Ariel Sharon’s paratroopers advanced in a pincer movement down the Gulf of Suez, nearly doubling the size of the Israeli assault force.

At Sharm el-Sheikh a huge battery of naval guns were positioned to block all shipping to Eilat. There, 1,500 Egyptian troops with their mortars and artillery held off the Israelis for four hours of intense fighting, and it was over the course of those four hours that Lilith put forth her supreme fighting effort. The big guns of the fort were disarmed by 9 AM that morning. The water route to Eilat was opened once more. Israel had achieved all of her war objectives in just one week. IDF losses were 172 killed and 817 wounded.

Having lost the war, Egypt was compelled by the terms of the cease-fire to allow Israeli shipping to pass through the Suez Canal once more. Immediately, an Israeli destroyer squadron passed from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea to support Yoffe, his battalion commanders, Lilith Gervasi, and all their infantry at the tip of the Sinai Peninsula.

Not by word, correspondence, telegram, or phone call did Lilith Gervasi appraise her father in England of any of the things that she had achieved since she parted from him, nor any of the historic events that transpired daily around her.

Personal tools
Strangers In Paradise