There have been four generations of fighters since the 1948 War of Independence, from the late historian Professor Eliezer Bashan who fought and was captured in the besieged Gush Etzion area, up to his great-grandson, Shahar-Yair, who currently serves as a tank commander in the northern theater with the 188th Armored Brigade.
Shahar-Yair was named after his grandfather, the late Maj. Yair Bashan – also a senior member of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel – who was wounded by Jordanian terrorists during his service. I, too, was wounded in an encounter with terrorists during my service in Meir Dagan's Sayeret Rimon unit, and I am also Shahar-Yair's grandfather.
There is no time like Hannukah, the holiday of heroism, to tell the heroic story of our Jewish fighters. And there is no better time than this week, as I commemorate the death of my father Yehiel, my Jewish hero, who survived the Auschwitz concentration camp and the Nazi death march, and who immigrated to Israel and joined the Israel Defense Forces to glorify the Jewish heroism that exists in almost every family that survived the exile.
In the northern theater, where my grandson serves, I fought during the 1973 Yom Kippur War near Gamla and at the foot of Mount Hermon with Sayeret Matkal.
During the 1982 Lebanon War, I fought with the 202nd Paratroopers Brigade, and there, on the Golan Heights, established Sar-el, a volunteer organization with supporters from around the world and from Israel who contribute to Israel's security by assisting on IDF bases in a logistical support role.
This week I visited the Golan Heights again to visit Shahar-Yair and his friends, the current generation of fighters.
The way I see it, the IDF has not changed, despite all the criticism against it. The spirit of volunteering has not changed either, only the aging faces of us veterans. I will prove this together with Shahar's uncle, Lt. Col. Israel Gur Arieh, who will share his story soon.
There is no better time than Hannukah to visit and see the northern theater as it developed throughout the generations. The landscape on the way to the Golan Heights has remained unchanged, with "Grandpa Hermon" towering above. The winter is almost here. The landscapes hold within them the memories of battles and heroism that took place here during the Yom Kippur War.
We are standing near a military monument near the Gamla stronghold and I share the story of the battle in which I participated. Gamla is directly connected to Hannukah, for Hasmonean King Alexander Jannaeus conquered the city from the Hellenists in the first century BCE, and brought Jews to inhabit the land. During the Great Revolt against the Roman Empire, Gamla fell following a bloody battle that took the lives of thousands.
"It is already dark outside, and I am on my way north to look for a unit to fight with on the Golan," I read out loud from my Yom Kippur memoirs, standing next to the monument. "Meller assigns me to a company within his tank regiment.
"Near Ein Gev, Meller gathers his command staff, and says, 'You should know, the people of Israel expect us to stop the Syrians. The fate of the country rests on our shoulders.' At the crack of dawn, on the way up, we see the defeated paratroopers descending. At night, we were ambushed by enemy tanks next to Gamla.
"I am familiar with the area as I traveled here before the war. I jump into the company commander's APC. In the meantime, one fighter has already been killed. Now the company is stuck in a 50-meter-radius tank ambush that has split it into two.
"I look for Bazooka ammo or anti-tank rifle grenades, but there aren't any. None in the entire company! There is nothing we can shoot at Syrian tanks."
It later turned out this was also the case in many other units. The war reserves storage units were empty and the IDF set out to war unprepared. The tanks were finally stopped with small arms, but it came at the expense of two more lives.
"Meanwhile, enemy tanks are moving towards us, firing at the APCs," I continue. "The company commander is busy trying to get tank reinforcements. Meller tells him to figure it out on his own, because he doesn't have any troops available and is busy with the main effort. I make sure soldiers are out of the APCs, because there they are easy targets, and order them to take cover.
"That was a mistake. When enemy tanks began moving after us and firing at us, some of the fighters were shell shocked and did not obey the order to leave the shelters to escape from the area of tank fire.
"Then comes Col. [David] Rokni, who famously led the IDF soldiers in march on the eve of Independence Day at Mount Herzl. I was sent to him from my unit to deal with Gaza terrorism, in order to instill disciplinary standards in the unit.
"As the tanks continue to fire, I scream for them to 'turn left' or 'jump right.' It's working! Insane, but we managed to get out of there like this."
Near the menorah on the legendary 188th Armored Brigade's base, three generations of warriors and reserve officers. Members of one family. A formation of soldiers in front of the menorah.
Now it is Gur Arieh's turn to recount the double miracle that happened to the Bashan family and his own. About the same night that he and Maj. Yair Bashan crossed into Jordan with reserve troops in order to ambush terrorists.
"The terrorists surprised us and killed two of our soldiers, and critically wounded me with a bullet in the throat, and my major, Yair Bashan, in the leg. We escaped miraculously and when I was lying with tubes connected to my head, my sister came from the kibbutz to visit me. I could not speak, so I wrote, 'Go and see how my major is doing, who is hospitalized in the orthopedic ward.'
"My sister Hannah went to check, and the story ended with a wedding. Shahar-Yair is their grandson. Isn't it a miracle?"
Is the current generation following in our footsteps? Absolutely. Seeing a Hanukkah parade consisting of soldiers of diverse backgrounds is a great honor. The battles of the Maccabees, together with the legacy of the battles of this time, create the ongoing story of Jewish heroism.
The heroic spirit of the Maccabees is alive and kicking. Seeing my grandson and his friends, may they all stay safe, carry the legacy, is proof that Jewish volunteering and heroism persevere. It has always been alive, from the time of Hannukah miracles to this day
(L.to R.): Lt.-Col. Grandpa Meir Indor, Lt.-Col. (Uncle) Yisrael Gur Arye, Sgt.1st class grandson Shachar Yair Bashan.
Posted with author's permission. Translated by and also posted on Yisrael Hayom
Lt.-Col. (ret.) Meir Indor was one of the first members of the national-religious community to serve as combat officers in the Israel Defense Forces. Indor fought in the Six-Day War (1967), the War of Attrition (1968–1970), the Yom Kippur War (1973), the Litani Campaign (1978), and Operation Peace for Galilee (1982–1985). Indor commanded a team of the Gaza-based anti-terror espionage Rimon unit as well as the Border Police anti-terrorism unit in Hevron, among other assignments. He led the lobbying effort that culminated in the cabinet decision permitting Jews to again reside in Hevron, was among the founders of Atzmona in Gaza (1979), created the Hevron Fund in the U.S. (1980), participated in the founding of the LIBI fund (1980), was a founder of Sar-El: Volunteers for Israel (1981), set up the Habaita organization to help Soviet Jews come to Israel (1984), and launched the IDF Shomer Israel Project (1985).Indor has served as CEO of the Almagor Terror Victims Association since its inception in 1986.