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Purity of Arms

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Dr. Ben Zion Aronson  E-mail

Ben Zion Aronson

Dr. Haim Sheba (left) with Dr. Bennie Aronson

Arriving by air from South Africa in early February 1949, I was immediately posted as medical officer to the 22nd Battalion of the Carmeli Brigade.

After the capture of Um-Rash-Rash (Eilat), I was sent there to establish a first aid clinic. We traveled down from the Galilee via Beersheba with one company of our battalion. It took 21 hours for our convoy to reach Eilat from Beersheba, through the arduous "Ma'alei Ha'Akrabim" (Scorpion Pass).

The ambulance in which I traveled was the last vehicle in the convoy, and got stuck in the sand for four hours before we were missed. This could have been a potentially dangerous situation, as there were reports of many infiltrators around.

At that time Eilat consisted of only a few Arab houses, the largest of which we
took over as a combined clinic/hospital and accommodation for the doctor (me) and two medical assistants, Herst from China and Alex from Hungary. I think that particular building later became a national monument.

Within a few days, one of our drivers returning from Beersheba was attacked by a band of Arab infiltrators and severely injured in one leg. We did what we could to control the bleeding, relieve shock and treat the pain. He was then transferred by an armored vehicle to a hospital further north, with extra guards accompanying him. We subsequently met a few months later, after he had fully recovered and was back on active service.

We had one most interesting experience: at about 3 a.m. we were awakened by a male voice singing what was obviously an Irish song. Knowing that a British garrison was stationed across the border at Aquaba, we realized that the voice might belong to a British soldier in the vicinity. Sure enough, this "Tommy" had crossed the lines when he was much the worse for drink. In fact, he thought that he was in the company of Jordanian soldiers.

When he finally awoke to the reality of being amongst Israeli troops, he was stunned. At first he refused to open his mouth, despite my repeated assurances that he would come to no harm. Imagine his reaction when a beautiful Sabra dental nurse, who wanted so much to observe a British soldier in captivity, came in to see him. He immediately jumped up and with a delighted expression cried, "Women! Women! If I had known this, I would have been here ages ago!"

He then opened up and told us how the British soldiers had been warned that if they ever fell into the hands of the Israelis, they would be killed and their bodies cut up into pieces. He was eventually sent back to his unit in Jordan via Cyprus.

Source: World Machal Archives