'Heroes? We all just worked together'
What unites all three is their embarrassment. Yes, they feel proud, but they do not feel glory. Over and over they try to be low key, to recall the joint effort, to mention other fighters, dead friends.
"There were people there who conducted themselves in an unbelievable manner, and in my eyes they are the ones who should be receiving the medals with me," says Eliran Iluz.
"Everything was about the teamwork of many anonymous heroes," says Lieutenant Erez Ramati, MD. "Our medics were particularly brave. We are only the representatives of a much greater effort."
"I would not be standing here without my comrades," Alon Rotmensch says.
All three fought in the Second Lebanon War as part of the 931 Nahal Battalion, and they and 145 others will receive medals next week for their conduct under fire.
First Sergeant (res.) Rotmensch is one of six IDF soldiers who received the Medal of Courage, and his two comrades, Lieutenant Erez Ramati and First Sergeant (res.) Eliran Iluz, will receive citations.
Iluz, 22, is a resident of Even Yehuda; Rotmensch, 23, is from Beit Aryeh and was discharged two months ago; Ramati, 28, from Kochav Yair, is still the doctor of Battalion 931.
Now the three recall the night, between August 11 and 12, 2006, when they fought in the village of Ghanduria as part of the last offensive in the war.
During the early morning hours, in the yard of one of the homes, Rotmensch found himself nearly the last man standing.
"I looked to the right, I looked to the left, and the entire platoon is wounded, including the platoon commander. There is no platoon," he recalls.
Only two of his soldiers were still on their feet, wounded, when Rotmensch took command and began leading the evacuation of his comrades. When he was done, he rallied soldiers from another platoon, and returned to fight the Hezbollah fighters who were barricaded in the house.
The wounded gathered near the wall that surrounded the yard. Several dozen meters away, Ramati took care of other wounded when the company commander ran to him and ordered "medical team to me, now."
Ramati and the battalion medic under his command followed to the point where Rotmensch was leading the fight.
"It is not courage. You work like an automaton. You think along very narrow lines," Ramati says, recalling the dash under fire to the point where Rotmensch had gathered his wounded soldiers.
"Once in a while the soldiers get up and shoot, but they are becoming fewer and fewer," Ramati says. One by one, they are taking the wounded to the rear. Ramati cannot forget 4:23, the time he had to confirm one of them dead.
Rotmensch is being awarded the Medal of Courage for his "fighting spirit, determination, extraordinary courage and his esprit de corps." Ramati is receiving a citation from the division commander "for pursuing the task at hand and for his professionalism."
"I did no complex procedure under fire, no heroic operation. All I did in that war was cut off the clothes of the injured and made decisions. The work was done by the soldiers," Ramati said.
As for the final offensive which drew so much criticism, and which is expected to be one of the definitive chapters of the Winograd Committee's final report, he says: "I am just a junior officer in a relatively low level unit - an infantry battalion. The decisions up above are not my business. I know that there are disputes, but I do not feel I am part of them."
This is shared by Rotmensch, who is convinced that "all we did had a great significance, and in any case, any order they issue me - I will immediately show up. I back the army."