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Purity of Arms

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David Kaplan writes about " Baby" Hirschmann  E-mail

Following the over 800 Southern Africans who volunteered in 1948 to fight in Israel’s War of Independence, in 1956 there was a new generation ready again to respond to the call.
David Kaplan reports.

He was one of the youngest South Africans to sign up.
“A face like a kid, his fellow volunteers called him Baby on the plane coming over and it’s stuck with him ever since,” relates Raymond Sive a long-standing friend of Herman Hirschmann who turned 70 last year and celebrated with a bash at the pub on Kibbutz Tzora. “To know Herman is to be inspired by him,” says Harold Kaufman. Raymond, Harold and Herman were comrades-in-arms during the Suez Crisis.
While the nationalization of the Suez Canal in 1956 caused an international crisis, for Herman, the crisis became painfully personal.  

During a training incident with live ammunition, Herman took a bullet in his head. “He bordered between life and death, but between excellent medical care and sheer determination he survived,” says Raymond. Doctors told him that while he had received excellent care in Israel he needed to face reality. “There has been serious damage to the brain they told him and he must forget about his plans to study. But these doctors did not know Baby,” says Raymond. “He returned to S.A. where he studied optometry and even ran his own business back in South Africa.”  
Nevertheless, over the years his health inevitably deteriorated as result of the head wound and today he is bound to a wheelchair living with his sister and brother-in-law in Kiron.

Is he bitter? “Not at all,” says Raymond. “He has a marvelous sense of humour, a positive outlook on life and loves company.” The party was a treat. His friends and former comrades came from all over as did his brother from the USA. A presentation of photographs from the various periods of his life was screened. In addition, Herman was presented with a personal message and a signed photograph from Shimon Peres.
This resonated with Herman. “When he lay recovering in hospital,” explained Raymond, “Peres, who at the time was Director-General of the Ministry of Defense, visited Herman and presented him with a Tanach. It stands on his bookcase to this day.”

After a few touching words, Harold presented ‘Baby’ with a certificate of trees which had been planted by his friends as part of a project to rehabilitate the forests in the north that had been burnt during the Second Lebanese War.

Raymond says that Herman enjoys meeting with old friends. “I invite those who have not seen him in a while, to give him a call at 03-6350948. He will be thrilled.”

This article appeared in " TelFed ",  (Organ of ex S.Africans, now living in Israel )