Ezra Yachin
Ezra YachinEzra Tube

The oldest active Israeli army reservist is a living folk hero named Ezra Yachin. At 95 years old Yachin was hardly known outside of Israel until he was called up to active duty following the October 7th Hamas terrorist massacre. News outlets from all ends of the spectrum such as the New York Post and Al Jazeera ran stories about the elderly IDF soldier who put on a uniform again to defend Israel, just as he had done so for decades before.

Yachin was described by the NY Post as someone who once "served as a combat soldier with Lehi — an underground paramilitary group active during British rule — who fought against the British and the Arabs to create a Jewish homeland" and that he was "called back up "to recount how he survived Arab pogroms in Jerusalem during his childhood," according to Israel National News." The article included a new photo of Yachin at the ready holding a modern combat rifle.

While the story of an elderly reservist is interesting in itself and reporters covered a bit of Yachin's personal history, there is more to the story. What would cause the Israeli army to think that young soldiers, many more than 75 years younger than Yachin, would find anything about him inspiring? What makes him a folk hero?

The articles did not reveal that many senior officers heard Yachin speak when they were recruits (or during their school years as he was a frequent speaker in educational institutions) and want today's young soldiers to benefit from the same experience. Yachin serves as a link to the fighting heroes of the 1940s. His passion for Zionism and the Land of Israel is infectious. What’s more is that when he tells his stories he makes it plain that he saw miracles multiple times when he was a young fighter.

Yachin was featured in the 2011 American-produced TV show "Against All Odds" in an episode titled "A Boy Named Ezra." In the program, which is also known as "Against All Odds: Israel Survives", much of his story is told by Yachin himself.

Well before that, in 1979, Yachin's memoirs were published in Hebrew, and in 1992, the book was released in English as ELNAKAM: Story of a Fighter for the Freedom of Israel. The Hebrew version has reportedly been so popular that it was reprinted at least nine times.

In this book as well as in his subsequent work as an official IDF educator, the three central themes of Yachin's life were intertwined. It recalls the heroic actions of the Zionist underground organizations in the 1940s, the dedication and loyalty Zionist soldiers must have to their fellow fighters, and an eternal love of all for the Land of Israel, especially Jerusalem. As we are taught in Kohelet: "A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."

In 1948, Yachin lost one of his eyes while fighting for the liberation of Jerusalem. He also lost many close friends during that fight and in other battles as well. In 1947, his 16-year-old friend, who was unarmed, was believed to have been murdered in cold blood by a major in the British Army named Roy Farran.

Now that he is becoming better known among English-speaking audiences, it is well worth sharing some of Yachin's final thoughts from his autobiography as there is so much to learn from it.

Below these words are in their entirety. [Source: https://books.lehi.org.il/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/ELNAKAM-SEARCHABLE.pdf---which includes the complete English version of the book.]

"For nineteen long years I carried the pain with me, day and night, week days and holy days. For me, as for everybody else, there was joy and grief, laughter or anger. I ate and drank, worked hard and raised a family. But deep in my heart there was always the pain, a grief that would not subside. Sometimes, left to myself, I would weep, with or without tears. I wept for Chaim, for Ben-Zion, for Yankele, for Dror, Uzi, and Ariella. And I wept for Kochava, my first love, who had been my dream while living never to be attained, and was now just a memory.

I wept for the fallen, the known and the unknown. There had been so many, yet salvation was still out of reach: a remnant of a country, a taste of independence...

Most of the land, including its heart, Jerusalem, was in the hands of strangers, but my people were indifferent, choosing to disregard this unpalatable fact.

My friends and comrades - had they died in vain? I still lived, but to what purpose?

I remembered my prayer before the operation, pleading to be permitted to hear of the liberation of Jerusalem, even if I were to die immediately afterwards. Was that, perhaps, the reason why I had been allowed to survive? Would I live to see my prayer answered?

Nineteen years went by and it was June 7, 1967. Jerusalem was liberated. That which my comrades and I had failed to achieve was done by our younger brothers. Sinai, Judea, Samaria, and the Golan were liberated or was it only a dream?

Then we returned to reality: the land was ours, under our own sovereignty.

But the hour of salvation is still to come. It awaits its own saviors."

On December 19, pro-Israel activist Hillel Fuld wrote a Facebook post about Ezra Yachin. Hillel is the brother of another Israeli hero named Ari Fuld, whose parents made aliyah from the United States. Ari was murdered in 2018 and shot his terrorist attacker before his own death and in doing so saved the lives of others. The story of Ari's bravery generated worldwide attention in no small part because he was a highly regarded Religious Zionist educator and noted Israel activist.

This connection between Ari Fuld and Ezra Yachin is a powerful one.

In the Facebook post, Hillel Fuld stated: There's no age for reserves in Israel. Martin Holt [is] 87 years old (right), Ezra Yachin is 95 years old (in the center), and Nacha Gilboa 85 years old (left). "There is no nation in the world with heroes quite like the heroes of Israel. As long as I live, I'll live as an army man" says Yachin, the oldest reservist in the IDF." [Source: https://www.facebook.com/HillelFuld]

May Ezra Yachin be able to teach, enlighten, and inspire others for many years to come.

Moshe Phillipsis a commentator on Jewish affairs whose columns appear regularly in the American and Israeli press