The sun already filtered her intense rays through more muted hues, a sign of the afternoon moving into evening there in the middle of Jerusalem. Our last stop of the day was Munitions Hill, the sight of a bloody and momentum changing battle in the Six Day War in 1967.
Our guide, Ezra, expertly wove historical fact with his own experiences as a soldier in that same battle as he moved us through the trenches left as a memorial to those fallen.
Ezra invited those of us who wanted to do a little climbing to come up a hill so he could show us where the battle ended. “Be careful,” he warned. “There’s not a walkway here, and the dirt and rocks can make the footing a little tenuous. Those of you who prefer to wait down here please do and I’ll fill you in when we come back down.” Some in our tour group plopped their bags and cameras down on wooden benches, grateful for a chance to sit.
I hopped up the hill carefully, happy I had swapped my flip flops for my running shoes that morning. I mentally calculated this terrain would be a high incline number on my treadmill at home.
Ezra looked back at those of us still following. “I’ve got a special story to share with you, about a soldier, an amazing man, my best friend, named Eitan.”
We continued to pick our way up the hill. To my side, I noticed the most elderly couple in our group, a stooped man dependent on a walker, and his white haired wife, slowly pushing their way up the hill. He had shared his name and age when we first met on the bus, and I was filled with admiration that at 89 he would attempt this trip with a walker. I moved carefully to them, hoping I could be of some help. His wife, seeing me, waved me off. “He won’t let anyone help him, Hon. Thank you though.” Their speed was excruciatingly tedious, but he never stopped, his wife’s hand on his arm to steady him as she could.
Ezra tapped a historical marker and gently brushed his finger under a name. “Eitan”, he said. “This is telling about Eitan, who at 19 years old was brave enough to sacrifice himself for his whole company. We were being mowed down like blades of grass. Eitan jumped out of the trenches here,“ Ezra said as he pointed to a bend in one of the stone fortified trenches. “He drew the fire that allowed the rest of us, me included, to move upwards, up there, where we weren’t in the direct line of fire anymore.” Ezra paused for a moment and gulped. He looked down and quickly brushed his face, wiping off a tear that spilled from his eye.
He struggled to compose himself. “I don’t always tell this part of the story because it still gets to me. I sometimes think of what Eitan would be doing now, how he would be enjoying a wife, children, grandchildren…all of which I do, and which wouldn’t be possible without his sacrifice. As long as I live, and as long as the stories of brave soldiers are told, Eitan won’t be forgotten.” Ezra kissed his fingers and brushed them over Eitan’s name. He started to move our group again when the elderly man with the walker and his wife finally reached our circle.
Ezra stopped and expressed surprise that they had come all the way up the hill. Although this octogenarian hadn’t said much the whole trip, his words were sure as he addressed Ezra.
“Son, I’m a soldier, too. I was there at the landing in Normandy. I’ve seen braver men than I fall, cut down as soon as their feet hit the sand. War is horrible, but I came all the way up this hill because as a soldier, I honor soldiers. Today, I honor Eitan.” With one hand holding firmly to his walker, he reached his other wrinkled hand forward and grasped Ezra’s. They locked their gazes on each other, both with eyes that had seen too much. Ezra slowly pulled the old man to him and they embraced, in silent memory.
April 24, 2014 at 1:20 pm
This brought tears to my eyes. We often speak of courage, of integrity. So few of us are called upon to exhibit these traits — fewer still will do so when called. The Eitans of the world are shooting stars: spectacular lights that streak across our lives, leaving us to bear witness.
Wonderfully told. Thank you.
April 24, 2014 at 1:32 pm
Oh tears are running down my cheek,” I honor soldiers. Today, I honor Eitan” those words and the fact that the octogenarian gentlemen took the effort and time to visit and share Ezra’s moment with his best friend Eitan made me so happy. That is a respect that is to be honored in itself. Such determination, just to show respect to a fellow soldier oh I am at a loss for words it makes me extremely proud as my Grandfather was a soldier too. It does not matter what country you are from they share equally in respect. I am sure it is a moment none who ventured to the top will ever forget. Thank you this was so well written. B
April 24, 2014 at 2:29 pm
Beautiful story, Shelly. Thank you for sharing it.
April 24, 2014 at 2:54 pm
What a moving story. The old man is a hero, still making that extra effort to honor another hero.
April 24, 2014 at 3:55 pm
This is so moving and humbling, too. We are often not aware how each of us has been protected by sacrifices of precious lives.
April 24, 2014 at 6:40 pm
A touching story, wonderfully told, Shelly. I am glad you were there to capture it and put it on paper for others to share.
April 25, 2014 at 12:31 am
I love your stories Shelly and this one was no different – they either make me laugh or cry, today…..I cried!
April 25, 2014 at 1:27 am
I’ve missed you while you’ve been away but stories like this are worth the wait.
April 25, 2014 at 1:43 am
This is such a lovely story. This one brought tears to my eyes.
April 25, 2014 at 2:14 pm
Wow. Amazing story, amazingly told. Love love love this, Shelly. You rock.
April 25, 2014 at 2:20 pm
I was right there with you and the others, Shelly, as I was reading. I know this ranks up there with memorable and unforgettable in the stories of your life. Thank you for sharing it. This online magazine site is fortunate to be able to publish your beautifully written pieces.
April 26, 2014 at 11:05 am
An inspiring story Shelly that warrants sharing. And beautifully told as usual. Now I understand that 89 year old man’s determination. Eitan will always be remembered.
April 26, 2014 at 9:45 pm
Beautiful, Shelly. I felt like I was there on Munitions Hill with you, Ezra, the elderly soldier, and the rest of the visitors. Thank you for sharing this.
April 26, 2014 at 11:01 pm
Thank you all for your very kind comments. I’m so glad you shared my feelings of this moment.
April 27, 2014 at 1:15 am
Beautiful story Shelly – brought tears to my eyes. What an amazing moment to share with all of us, and what an emotional moment it must have been between your guide and the older man. Beautifully told.
April 27, 2014 at 9:25 pm
What a beautiful moment and story. “Greater love hath no man…”
April 28, 2014 at 10:46 am
This story speaks to my heart and soul. The connectedness of everyone present at that moment, particularly the hug between the two soldiers brought a tear. Beautiful story!
April 29, 2014 at 12:37 am
This story is so beautiful and well written. Thanks for publishing it.
April 29, 2014 at 3:51 pm
Dear Shelly, this story brought tears to my eyes and reverence to my heart. It’s one of those stories that are like the burning bush in Exodus. That is, we need to figuratively take off our sandals as we read of the courage, graciousness, compassion, and human endurance of others. Thank you for sharing this and for writing the story with such simplicity. That’s the best way to honor Eitan, Ezra, and the elderly man who took one hand from his walker to shake the hand of another soldier and then embraced him. Peace.
April 30, 2014 at 7:40 pm
Beautiful and beautifully told, Shelly. You have such a gift.
May 1, 2014 at 12:09 am
This is such a beautiful, touching story that brought tears to my eyes, too, Shelly! The quiet courage of the old man, the loving expressions of gratitude from Ezra and humility of both in remembering the sacrifices made by others was all profoundly moving. So ways their connection, forged by the shared experiences of horrors in different wars that were nonetheless similar in their toll on the body and spirit. Thanks for sharing this profound experience!
May 2, 2014 at 2:25 am
Beautifully told and heart touching. Thank you, Shelly.
May 2, 2014 at 2:40 am
What a sweet and sad story. Both stories, really. Thanks for sharing.
May 2, 2014 at 2:10 pm
I’ve so enjoyed each of your comments- thank you for taking the time to not only read, but to share here.
May 8, 2014 at 5:14 pm
To quote a line from one of my favorite old movies.
Where do we get such men?
What an emotional story. I’m 63 years old and weeping like a school girl.