Soon the Singing Will Turn Into A Death Moan

Israel’s Sacred Terrorism – by Livia Rokach

APPENDIX 3  “Soon the Singing Will Turn Into A Death Moan”

The following is excerpted from Meir Har-Tzion’s Diary, published by Levin-Epstein, Ltd., Tel Aviv, 1969. It describes an Israeli raid in Gaza during the early 1950s.


The wide, dry riverbed glitters in the moonlight. We advance, carefully, along the mountain slope. Several houses can be seen. Bushes and shrubbery sway in the breeze, casting their shadows on the ground. In the distance we can see three lights and hear the sounds of Arab music coming out of the homes immersed in darkness. We split up into three groups of four men each. Two groups make their way to the immense refugee camp to the south of our position. The other group marches towards the lonely house in the flat area north of Wadi Gaza. We march forward, trampling over green fields, wading through water canals as the moon bathes us in its scintillating light. Soon, however, the silence will be shattered by bullets, explosions, and the screams of those who are now sleeping peacefully. We advance quickly and enter one of the houses “Mann Haatha?” (Arabic for “Who’s there?“)


We leap towards the voices. Fearing and trembling, two Arabs are standing up against the wall of the building. They try to escape. I open fire. An ear piercing scream fills the air. One man falls to the ground, while his friend continues to run. Now we must act we have no time to lose. We make our way from house to house as the Arabs scramble about in confusion. Machine guns rattle, their noise mixed with a terrible howling. We reach the main thoroughfare of the camp. The mob of fleeing Arabs grows larger. The other group attacks from the opposite direction. The thunder of hand grenades echoes in the distance. We receive an order to retreat. The attack has come to an end.


On the following morning, the headlines will read:The refugee camp of Al-Burj near Gaza was attacked. The camp has been serving as a base for infiltrators into Israeli territory. ‘Twenty people were killed and another twenty were wounded.


.. . . A telephone line blocks our way. We cut it and continue. A narrow path leads along the slope of a hill. The column marches forward in silence. Stop! A few rocks roll down the hill. I catch sight of a man surveying the silence. I cock my rifle. Gibly crawls over to me, Har, for God’s sake, a knife!! His clenched teeth glitter in the dark and his whole body is tight, his mind alert, “For God’s sake,” . . . I put my tommy down and unsheath my machete. We crawl towards the lone figure as he begins to sing a trilled Arab tune. Soon the singing will turn into a death moan. I am shaking, every muscle in my body is tense. This is my first experience with this type of weapon. Will I be able to do it?


We draw closer. There he stands, only a few meters in front of us. We leap. Gibly grabs him and I plunge the knife deep into his back. The blood pours over his striped cotton shirt. With not a second to lose, I react instinctively and stab him again. The body groans, struggles and then becomes quiet and still.


From an interview with Meir Har-Tzion, Ha’aretz weekly supplement, 9 November 1965:
“Pangs of conscience? No. Why should I have any?” The man’s blue eyes open wide in amazement. “It’s easy to kill a man with a rifle. You press the trigger and that’s that. But a knife, why, that’s something else-that’s a real fight. Even if you are successful, you come close to death. The enemy’s blade is as close as the air. It’s a fantastic feeling. You realize you’re a man.”

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Soon the Singing Will Turn Into A Death Moan