Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Remembering Chaim-Memorial Day 5770

I wonder how he would have looked today. Would he be like me, hair grey and thinning, on the heavy side, looking all of his 59 years? Would he have turned out to be a Torah  scholar? A professor? Maybe a doctor?
I'll never know, because 40 years ago Chaim Rosenblum HY"D was killed on the bank of the Suez Canal.

I wish I had a picture of him, but It doesn't matter. I remember him as if we had just seen each other this morning. He was a fresh faced kid just a year out of  yeshiva high school. We had just finished basic training. Since we were in the N. A. CH. AL (Fighting Pioneering Youth) brigade, we were sent to a new settlement in the lower Jordan Valley. Our job was to patrol the border with Jordan and prevent Al Fatah terrorists from infiltrating.  We did a pretty good job along with reserve forces in our sector killing 13 in the first two months, mostly in night ambushes. But this was spring '70 and the real action was in the "war of attrition" with the Egyptians. This was a static war, the two armies dug in on either side of the Suez  Canal. Over 30 soldiers were killed there since the beginning of the year. From June our unit had to send a certain number of men to the Canal to reinforce the reservists who were stationed there. Who would go was determined by lot. When the name  of one of the guys who wasn't in training with us came up, he said that he had a personal problem, that his only sister was getting married the next week and his leave had already been approved. Everyone knew that this didn't matter, all leaves were cancelled for those who were picked to go to the Canal. Then Chaim stood up and said that he would go in his place. Our commanding officer looked at him and asked if he was sure that he wanted to do this. Chaim said that sure, if he could help this guy, why not? Some of us tried to talk him out of it. Why should he put himself in such danger for someone he hardly knew? It wasn't as if we weren't doing our part where we were. I should explain that Chaim was no gung-ho macho type always looking for action, Just the opposite. He was quiet and spent most of his free time learning Torah.  In the end his request was approved and Chaim left the settlement for the Canal.

Our guys were assigned to a lookout built on a bluff above the canal. Their job was to spot the muzzle flashes of the Egyptian artillery and report back so that air strikes could be called in. They were told that if the shells fell within the perimeter of their position they should get down into a fortified dugout called the "rabbit hole" One night soon after he arrived Chaim was in the lookout, manning the telescope when the barrage began. The shells started falling closer but Chaim couldn't see where they were coming from. When the the shells started coming closer the others in the position yelled at Chaim that he should get into the dugout but he said that now he could see the flashes, he had to call them in ! Two minutes later the ground shook as a shell exploded 20 meters from the lookout. When Chaim didn't come into the dugout the others went to the lookout to see what happened to him. They found him unconscious on the floor.a shard of shrapnel had hit him behind the ear and penetrated his brain. He died before he could be evacuated to a hospital.

  I have asked myself many times, why him? Although it might sound like a cliché, he was the best of us. I can only say that his death in defense of Israel makes me look at myself and think: have I, in my life, lived for the things he and all the others died for? We all have a lot to live up to.

So  along with the people of Israel who remember all the thousands who have fallen, I will remember Chaim.


  1. thank you for sharing chaim's story. i am honored to have read it, and to remember him amongst the others.

  2. Writing about Chaim helps to keep his spirit alive.

    I am so glad that I was able to read this post about your memories of such a fine young man.

    And, again thank you for the words you offer to help me find my way back.

    Hasya Ya'ara

  3. Thank you for posting this, even though I see it late. In some way, every day is Yom Hazikaron.

    I, too, am a Nahlawi; but from a decade later. And I always think of Danny Haas. He urged us to stay awake long enough to daven Arvit (you know how hard that was sometimes!) or learn a quick few lines in Rambam. He pushed that as much as staying awake to prepare our gear. Danny was killed his during his first miluim in Shalom Hagalil, Rosh Hodesh Av. We didn't just lose a warrior, but a true baal hesed.

  4. It sounds like he was following orders too much - without considering the reasons for them. Or it is like a child who is taught only to cross at the light - and then he avoids crossing in the middle of the street at a time when it is not dangerous but crosses at the light in a situation where any person could see it is dangerous.

    He probably wasn't the highest ranking soldier there. hid commanding officer should have ORDERED him into the dugout.

    If it would have been somebody else ...he wouldn't have been killed.

    When he stayed out, did he succeed in calling in the positions of the Egyptian artillery for those strikes?

    And why did they want them called in? To prevent the strikes from hitting someone. But where were they aiming at? His own position!

    He sounds like a Chasid Shoteh. He made a big mistake here. This could be a lesson for all soldiers. Telling this story may save somebody's life.