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David and the Syrian Goliath    

David and the Syrian Goliath

Tel Facher was the site of an impregnable Syrian bunker, which made the lives of Galilee residents miserable for almost two decades…


In loving memory of Private David Shirazzi, of blessed and martyred memory, whose heroic story we are about to tell:
From Israel's Independence in 1948 to June of 1967, life in the Galilee Panhandle and Israel's narrow eastern shore of Lake Kinneret was purgatory. Farmers in Ein Gev and Tel Qatzir suffered from daily sniper fire. Children in Kibbutz Dan slept in bomb shelters almost nightly. The Syrian army units, perched like buzzards in the steep Golan Heights overlooking the north of Israel, made life as unbearable for their Jewish neighbors as they could.
In May of 1967, the Arabs became intoxicated with illusions of grandeur. The Syrians promised their soldiers luxury apartments in Haifa, the Egyptians claimed Tel Aviv and Jordanians thought that all of Jerusalem would soon be theirs. The three hostile neighbors therefore put a noose around Israel's neck in the form of a siege. They conspired to annihilate the Jewish State once and for all, and to carve it up among themselves. But Hashem had different plans...
In the first week of June, 1967, Israel decided that her neighbors' choke-hold on her was not to her liking. Rather than waiting like a sitting duck for the Arabs to strike first, Israel made a daring air-blitz against the Egyptian air force on June 6. Destroying over eighty percent of the Egyptian aircraft on the ground, Israel seized total control of the skies. This was the start of the Six-Day War, when Hashem miraculously delivered Israel's enemies into her hands.
But meanwhile, the bombing in the north of Israel became even more intense and insufferable.
On June 8, 1967, Israel's northern citizens demanded that the government put a stop to the massive, incessant and unprovoked barrages raining down on them from the Syrian artillery in the Golan Heights. Normal life in the Northern Galilee was something that few people remembered. Even the fishermen were now fishing in armored boats, but only in the middle of the night and never in broad daylight.
Israel took the initiative; on June 8th after dark, Israeli war planes and artillery began pounding Syrian positions in the western Golan along Israel's border. At midnight, the ground assault began with tanks, halftracks and two battalions of the crack Golani infantry brigade taking part. Enough was enough, for Israeli finally decided to stop turning its northern cheek. They sought to free the Golan Heights - the center of such notable ancient Israelite settlements as Gamla, Nob and Katzrin - from Syrian domination! There was no other way to bring quiet to the Northern Galilee.
Seizing the Golan?! This was a wild and dangerous gamble, for the Syrians held strategically superior positions. The Israelis conjured that Syria would never expect such an assault. Yet, the struggle was  not just about a piece of ancient real estate; at stake was Israel's right to live in peace and her responsibility to protect her citizens from aggression. After nineteen years of nonstop terror, Israel had an opportunity to set the North free; there might never be a second chance.
Faulty, incomplete and misinterpreted military intelligence led Israel to believe that a few tank battalions with armored infantry support would be enough to do the job. Israel was sorely mistaken. The entrenched Syrians easily destroyed dozens of Israeli tanks and halftracks which in no way could ascend the steep slopes. The entire task of dislodging the Syrians from their massively concrete and steel fortified bunkers fell on the shoulders of the two dozen soldiers of Golani's 12th Battalion who could still stand on their own two feet. Even though the IDF had pierced Syrian front lines in other sectors of the Golan, the Syrian stronghold at Tel Facher remained impregnable. It was apparent that Tel Facher was the key to capturing the entire Golan; the outcome of this battle would make or break the entire Golan campaign.
The Golani soldiers split up into two squads of a dozen each. They were now totally exposed on the slopes leading to Tel Facher with no armor support and not enough leeway to call in artillery or air support. Crawling on all fours up the steep mountain path, they not only endured massive machine gun and mortar fire, but were faced to deal with layers of barbed wire and land mines all over the place. More and more of the valiant Jewish infantrymen were getting hurt, and badly at that. The advance up the mountain ground to a halt.
Syrian artillery and mortars were now honing in on a one-meter wide stretch of ground where the Israelis were stuck on the last row of barbed wire, within range of the Syrian machine-gun nests above. Soon, they might all be blown to smithereens...
Then came David - sweet, smiling David Shirazzi who his buddies called "Elvis" because he both looked like Elvis loved Elvis's songs. David was already badly wounded, but he had previously refused to let the platoon medic evacuate him. With superhuman dedication, he kept crawling up the slope with his buddies. They had been together in the same company of the 12th Battalion for nearly three years now,  brothers in arms whose hearts virtually beat in unison.
David looked up the hill at the Syrian gun emplacements - he knew that he wouldn't make it to the top. The climb was too steep, he was badly hurt and weak from loss of blood, and the satanic Syrian  machine gun fire just wouldn't let up. There was nowhere to go.
Until now, there was only one narrow approach to the Syrian bunker at Tel Facher. So, anytime an Israeli soldier tried to make the final ascent, he was cut down easily by the Syrian gunners. Things looked hopeless.
In a second wind of bravery and total dedication, David yelled one word in Hebrew to his comrades, Alai ("On me")! He lunged forward and threw himself on top of the barbed wire, making himself into a human bridge over which enabled his buddies to storm the Syrian positions from a second, unanticipated direction. With tears in their eyes, they trod on David's body, which soon became lifeless. Only four of them reached the Syrian emplacement, and in one of the most moving and hair-raising episodes of face-to-face combat in Israeli military history, they won the battle of Tel Facher. One of the four, unit commander Mussa Klein, of blessed and martyred memory, was killed in the final bunker shootout.
The name of posthumous Medal of Valor winner David Shirazzi will ever remain a legend whom every Israeli infantryman should know about. Only Hashem knows the lofty place in Heaven where his martyred soul remains in eternal rest. We love you, David, and we'll never forget you!

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