an Israeli Story

    April Passover 2006 Edition            
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Opinion & Society


Debt of Honor

By Sidney S. Fink

The pinkish light of day was spreading into a clear blue sky as the two military jeep like vehicles came to a halt at a parking area just outside a small Arab village. In the second vehicle sat a blindfolded and bound Israeli soldier. Out of the lead vehicle a young Arab, an officer of lower rank got out and strode briskly into a nearby building that looked like all the other buildings in the village. He had just come to report to his superior on the night's mission. Once inside he approached a desk behind which sat his superior, a man not much older than himself.

"Our raid went well Captain Daoud. We were also able to bring back a captive Israeli officer. Here are his papers." He then spread out the contents of a wallet that included various papers, a driver's license, family photographs and other contents.

Captain Zuhair Daoud smiled and began perusing the papers, but as he did so his look became more studied. He kept alternating between the pictures and the other papers. To his subordinate he seemed to be taking a rather prolonged look This puzzled him.

"Is something wrong Sir?" he asked. Captain Daoud, aroused by the question began to collect the materials into a pile. He then looked up at his subordinate.

"Not at all Ahmed! You did well. I would like to observe him as he is being interrogated. Let us go over there."

Captain Daoud got up and took his jacket from behind him on the wooden chair. He then went outside with Ahmed and they walked over to the building where the Israeli was being questioned. They entered a dimly lit room where the captive was seated at a table, his arms bound behind him. A lamp on the table had a strong light that was shinning directly into his face. He appeared to be frightened and his left eye was swollen, blackened and narrowed.

The Captain placed himself in a darkened area of the room and motioned for Ahmed to join him there. He watched the proceedings for awhile and then motioned for Ahmed to follow him outside.

"Ahmed I want the questioning stopped" Captain Daoud said. "See that his needs are met."

Ahmed appeared somewhat taken aback by the order

Captain Daoud noticed and felt the need to give an explanation..

"I believe we may be able to make good use of this man for our people, even though it appears that he has little of other value to us I will contact my father at headquarters and see if it is a plausible possibility." He then left Ahmed and went back to his own quarters where he placed a call to his father.

"Father, Zuhair, something has come up. It is necessary that we meet. Zuhair told him.

Later that day he had himself driven to his father, a prominent member of the military government. He went into his father's private office and laid out on his father's desk the papers for his father to see. "Father, I think there is something here we have an obligation to attend to."


It was during the 1972 Yom Kippur War that Captain Ibrahim Daoud's superior had sent for him and given him a mission he had to accept and which contained the possibility of grave danger.

Captain Daoud was a small, slender man in his early thirties. He had straight black hair and a small moustache that gave him a courtly appearance, something he had perfected while attending college in England. He had majored in economics, but following his father's wish had gone into the military. Now he had been ordered to ensconce himself into a small cave far above a key valley from which point he was to radio back reports of any Israeli movement he might notice below.

Captain Ibrahim's superior had advised him that if he were spotted, or detected, then his safe return would be a matter of fate and Allah's wish. Ibrahim had but recently married a beautiful daughter of an old family friend and he was deeply in love with his young wife. Now, this task had befallen him. "What awful luck!" Ibrahim mused to himself.

The cave was one of several located above the valley. It had a better than five foot high oval opening and extended back some twelve feet. It also had a commanding view of the valley below. It was an ideal spot for an observer from either side. It was almost high in the rear for a small man to stand up just a bit bent over. At times during daylight, sunlight penetrated far into the cave.

Once Ibrahim had gotten into the cave he assembled his equipment deep inside and then went into the mouth of the cave and gazed down into the valley below. The potential battleground to be below was still and light was beginning to fail. He decided to make himself as comfortable as circumstances would permit and then he went back into the rear of his cave to settle down. After darkness came he dozed off.

A scrapping sound suddenly awoke him. He reached for his pistol and fired towards the mouth of the cave. Two shots then rang back and he was thrown back against the rear cave wall. The light from his shot had exposed him. One bullet had hit his radio. The second had found his left chest just below his shoulder, but away from his heart. He sat down moaning, shaken and somehow losing his weapon.

An Israeli soldier crept cautiously into the darkened cave flashing a light. He was taller, but not much older looking than his adversary. He wore no hat over his blond hair and was somewhat heavier built than Ibrahim. The Israeli was also carrying radio equipment. Hearing Ibrahim's moans the Israeli pointed his light towards the sounds and thereby discovered his wounded Arab adversary. He used the light searchingly on and over his enemy and noticed the spreading blood on his uniform.

Ibrahim assumed that he was about to meet Allah. He believed he would never again see his beautiful wife, but to his surprise the Israeli did not shoot again. Instead, the Israeli came over with the light and took another long searching look at his wounded and now incapacitated enemy lying up against the cave's wall.

Ibrahim's blood was spreading and reddening the left shoulder of his jacket. The Israeli unexpectedly bent down over him and carefully removed his reddening jacket. He took off his backpack, positioning his light on the backpack, so that he could watch the Arab and free his own hands as well. He then reached into his own pack and took out some medical supplies.

"I see you are an officer" he said in English. "I would guess then that you can understand what I am saying to you in English. I see fear in your eyes. I will not hurt you. Do not be afraid of me."

"Do not play me for a fool…I have nothing to offer you…Finish it!" Ibrahim responded.

The Israeli stared at him for a moment before speaking again.

"I see you don't trust me…I can understand that, but I'm not a cold blooded murderer. You are hurt and you did not hurt, or kill me…so we are both still alive. You and I are not wild animals…we are equal in God's eyes. I cannot just finish you off just for convenience sake. I would not be able to live with that on my conscience…there has been and will be too much killing and grief in our world as it is. We, I'm sure both have families and loved ones." He told the disbelieving Ibrahim.

The Israeli then proceeded to attend to his wounded enemy. He introduced himself as a fellow officer, sent to find an observation post not realizing that it might already be occupied by an enemy observer sent there for the same purpose. "I think you fired a little too soon. Thanks to God, you missed…My name is Chaim…I'm an engineering student at Tel Aviv University suddenly called to duty…Are you married? Have children? I'm newly married myself. My wife is a fellow student."

"I too have just married." Ibrahim replied. "I can't believe you are helping me. It's too good to be real…My name is Ibrahim Why are you?" he blurted out.

"Ibrahim, we all have but one God and we have common ancestors. I don't know why we have to destroy each other when we can live together in peace." Chaim paused for a moment as he tended to Ibrahim's wound. "What is your full name? Mine is Chaim Josephs. I'm from Tel Aviv."

"Ibrahim Daoud from Homa." Ibrahim responded weakly. "My family lived in England for a bit and I schooled there. Is your wife an engineering student as well?"

"No, civil administration," Chaim responded.

"I have been married but four months and we are expecting our first child." Ibrahim revealed.

"I thank God again once more that I did not kill you. A mitzvah." Chaim responded.

They spent the remaining hours of the night getting to know more about each other. They talked about their wives and families. Ibrahim then spoke with difficulty and softly in his state of pain from his wound about his time in England. Then Chaim told about his own youth spent in Maryland in the United States, before his family emigrated to Israel. They shared their individual tales, their water and rations, but soon the sounds of battle in the dark came from below them. Chaim went to look, but it was too dark and beyond flashes of light he couldn't really see what was going on. At daylight he tried again. The wounded Ibrahim had passed into a comatose deep sleep. After awhile, Chaim came back into the rear of the cave. The sounds of battle had moved on. He gently awoke Ibrahim and told him what he had seen. It looked like the Israeli's were in control down below.

"I will go and bring back help for you." Chaim said

The wounded Arab enemy did not believe Chaim and assumed he surely would be left totally forgotten in the cave and that he would die there…he said nothing.

The hours passed and to Ibrahim's surprise, Chaim returned with medical help. He was removed from the cave and taken to a military hospital site. Soon afterwards the fighting stopped and the war ended.

Chaim, already discharged, came to visit him at the hospital and he obtained the addresses of Ibrahim's wife and family. He brought and introduced his bride, Sarah, to Ibrahim. They brought him sweets.

"Chaim has told me all about you and your family." Sarah informed him. "We have contacted your family through the Swedish Consulate and let them know that you are alive and doing well."

"Praise be to Allah." Ibrahim said. "I thank you."

Chaim kept coming to visit and often brought sweets and reading materials. Ibrahim wrote letters home. Chaim and Sarah arranged for their delivery through the Swedish Consulate. When it became time to exchange prisoners, Chaim saw to it that Ibrahim's family was informed as quickly as they could arrange it.. Finally, Chaim came to say goodbye and wish him well. He gave Ibrahim a copy of the Koran he had purchased. To the surprise of the hospital staff they embraced each other and then shook hands. "Perhaps someday, we can meet again, my friend," He told Ibrahim. "Shalom!"

"May Allah will it so." Ibrahim replied, "Salaam." They shook hands again and Ibrahim felt Chaim press something into his hand. When Chaim left, he found himself holding an Arab good luck talisman.


Ibrahim took out of his pocket a key chain. On it was the talisman he had been given years ago by Chaim. He proffered it to his son. "You remember the story well my son and the name. He looks just like his father…Without this boy's father…neither I, nor you, my son or your children would be here now." Ibrahim said.

"We must somehow repay this debt. Am I not correct father?" Zuhair asked.

The father, now older and grayer smiled at his son. "You understand well Zuhair, my son. We can neither explain, nor tell anyone else our story, for not all men will understand, or think the same. I will try to arrange something and try to reach his father."

Over the next few days Ibrahim, through his high government position was able to arrange a "routine" prisoner exchange of one Israeli captive for many Arab captives. A Swedish intermediary was involved and able to negotiate and complete the details.

Some weeks later the exchange was to take place. The Arab officer, Captain Zuhair Daoud was assigned the task of personally making the exchange his individual duty. He was to drive the prisoner to the exchange site at the border gate site and turn him over to the Swedish intermediary. The Swede would take him across and return with the Arab prisoners.

Captain Zuhair Daoud sat waiting with his prisoner alone in his vehicle for the others to arrive on the other side of the border. Then they came. Looking straight ahead he spoke at last to his now unbound prisoner. "We are being observed. Do not look directly at me. I advise you not to reply to what I have to say, but to look straight ahead." He then quickly related to his prisoner who he was. "If you know of my family and our mutual story…just move your left shoe onto mine."

The captive stared straight ahead as advised and moved his foot slowly onto his captor's.

"Our best wishes to your father and family!" Zuhair told him. "My father is in the car that was just behind mine when you came here to me. He will stand in front of it and watch us. Tell your father of this. He and your mother will be there waiting for you."

At the proper time the Swedish diplomat came to the vehicle and he escorted the young Israeli to the borderline. In a brief ceremony he was exchanged for the Arab men. As he was told by Zuhair amongst those waiting for him were his parents. He walked over to them and embraced his mother and then his father and whispered to them what Zuhair had told him. The parents now also graying, and somewhat heavier than in those earlier years looked across the border to where the other father and son were now standing together in front of the vehicle…watching.

The Josephs smiled, intuitively, in their direction, and then quickly turned once again to embrace their son once more. Then everyone on both sides of the border, headed for home.


from the April Passover 2006 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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