Letters from American students to Moshe Dayan revealed

On 51th anniversary of INS Destroyer Eilat sinking, letters revealed sent by LA students to Dayan including donation to purchase new ship.

Mordechai Sones ,

Child's letter to Defense Minister
Child's letter to Defense Minister
IDF Archive and Defense Ministry

The Israel Defense Forces Archives today published letters written by Jewish students from the Yavneh School in Los Angeles to Defense Minister Moshe Dayan following the INS Eilat destroyer's sinking 51 years ago.

On October 21, 1967, Egyptian naval forces hiding in Port Said sank the Israeli destroyer INS Eilat, killing forty-seven. Soviet-made P-15 missiles were used by an Egyptian Komar-class fast-attack craft that sank the Israeli destroyer, scoring at least three direct hits. It was reportedly the first time anti-ship missiles were proven in battle, sinking the destroyer 17 km from Port Said.

It was not considered a conventional naval battle, but rather was called cowardice typical of Egypt, whose forces hid in the port under Russian protection.

The letters were sent to the Defense Minister at the time by sixth grade teacher Zeev Hillman, an Israeli teacher who went to teach in the US. In his letter to Dayan he writes: "Our classes are very aware of what's going on in Israel ... The INS Eilat's sinking shocked our students, and after a short conversation they decided to donate from their life savings as their part in purchasing a new ship and to express their feelings and thoughts in letters to you."

INS Eilat Destroyer
באדיבות ארכיון צה"ל במשרד הביטחון צלם: מיקי אסטל

The students attached money to the letters so the State of Israel could buy a new destroyer to replace the sunken Eilat, and at the bottom of each letter the students wrote how much money they were sending.

Deborah Frau wrote: "I and my class decided to collect money to help our brethren in Eretz Israel, and I send money to buy a new ship that will be kept on the shores of our country."

Student Sara Shefer wrote: "I'm an 11-year-old girl and I can only pray for the well-being of Israel. I'm also sending one dollar that I saved to help buy a new ship."

Shalom Linderman wrote: "I'm giving money for a new destroyer. I know I can't pay all the money, but I'm giving as much as I can."

In the letters the students express their desire to enlist in the IDF but are aware that because of their age they cannot yet enlist.

A student named Shoshana Greenberger wrote: "I'm sending money to buy a new ship, because I can't be a soldier."

Katriel Tmisapasco apologized: "I can't fight with you because I haven't yet reached the age of bar mitzvah."

Esther Tarek wrote: "I have many cousins ​​in the IDF ... but I am a 10.5-year-old girl and I can't fight."

Jewish sailors: Stunning rare footage aboard the INS Eilat:

Some students expressed desire to immigrate to Israel. Student Chaim Mandel wrote: "I'm young and I can't go up to the Holy Land now. I'll come when I'm older."

Shlomit Azoulay wrote: "I want to come to Israel - I've already been to Jerusalem three times - and to study at the University of Jerusalem. I love the State of Israel very much and when I grow up I want to be a good citizen in Israel."

The students said in their letters that they follow events in Israel and expressed the sadness they felt following the destroyer's sinking and the death of its crew. Student Malka Rubner wrote: "When I heard the war started, I wanted to cry; I listened to news on television and radio, I read a lot in the newspaper. Thank G-d we beat the haters, but now our ship sunk and a lot of our boys drowned."

Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, who received the students' letters, sent them an answer: "Your teacher, Mr. Zeev Hillman, has sent me your dear letters written in our Hebrew language and your modest contributions to increase the strength of the Israeli navy. Please, dear children, accept my thanks for the letters and for your contribution and please do well in your studies. Yours faithfully, Moshe Dayan, Defense Minister."

Soviet P-15 missile


Hebrew documentary about INS Eliat:

Egyptian documentary celebrating destruction (Arabic):