The Doctor and His War on the Eunuchs

An entire national leadership did not manage to formulate an opinion. Even in the midst of the war they fled their responsibility.


When the minutes are declassified the argument ignites again: Whose guilt is the greater? A lame man rides on a blind man's back and justifies himself: Have I legs to walk with? And a blind man argues: Have I eyes to see with? But the owner of the orchard in the parable blames them equally. Thus shall be done to guardians who have betrayed trust.

Who needs minutes when it is possible just to open the drawers of memory? I will always hold against her the response she gave to a message I received from a messenger: The president of Egypt is ready and willing to negotiate. She fixed me with a glassy stare: And what does he expect to get, do you know? Of course, all of Sinai, I replied. Nu, she grumbled, and is that possible? Are you out of your mind?

Golda Meir was right again: I was out of my mind with rage at the narrowness of her horizons and her insensitivity. Who is permitted to forgive her and her eunuchs - Yisrael Galili, Moshe Dayan and Shimon Peres - who just at that time decided to build a "deepwater port at Yamit?" Then too they didn't have the sense to freeze construction and invited a war.

That was a war in which there were heroes neither among the lame nor among the blind. But there was a hero and he is an advocate for all her victims, the dead and the living.

In 1973 he was 29, the oldest in the bunch, a doctor doing his internship. There were 42 fighters on the banks of the Suez Canal. Five were killed, 20 were wounded, and for a wounded man he thought would die he opened his windpipe by flashlight and without anesthesia.

The fighting went on as long as there was any point to it and there was still ammunition. On the third day the outpost was entirely surrounded and its fate was sealed. The supreme command consulted, and over the field radio it was heard in its helplessness: What do we do now, what do we say to the lost, trapped men? There were bigshots who insisted on fighting to the end, until the last drop of prestige. The doctor, however, thought their lives were better than pointless deaths, and an orderly surrender by means of the Red Cross was preferable to collective suicide.

An entire national leadership did not manage to formulate an opinion. Even in the midst of the war they fled their responsibility. The boys should decide themselves - that was the final instruction over the field radio. They themselves should take responsibility for their personal fate and national pride. Though they are young and very betrayed, though they are surrounded and abandoned, though they are bleeding, their lives are in their own hands.

Last Saturday we celebrated the birthday of our youngest grandson, who is a year old. All five grandchildren were there - three of them are great-grandchildren of Moshe Dayan, including the birthday boy. The first grandson of the outpost doctor, Nahum Werbin, also attended the party; he is already a big boy, nearly two years old.

I looked at the two of them, the grandson and his grandfather, and thought to myself: How lucky we and dozens of other families in Israel are that it was Nahum who was there, at the outpost, scorning the stuttering of the cowards in the "bunker," and as a soldier who evinced civil courage. One can argue whether it is good or not to die for something, but generally it is better to live. But to die for the caprices of leaders and their blindness and their lameness?

In retrospect, 37 years later, it is now possible to see clearly what Dr. Werbin in his heroism saw in advance: What advantage would have accrued to our national security had 37 unnecessary fatalities been added to the 2,656 Israeli dead from that war? It isn't the dead who are going to have children who have grandchildren who celebrate birthdays.

My grandson is already walking and talking. Nahum still crawls on all fours when he plays with him. I wanted to go up to Nahum, lean over and lay my hand on his head as an expression of thanks: Thank you for serving the cult of death here and thwarting it, for having chosen life. I didn't go up to him, because I wasn't sure he would understand what I was feeling.