An Israeli soldier’s personal account of two kinds of solitude experienced during the ’73 Yom Kippur War.
Geoffrey Pound made aliyah from Great Britain to Israel in 1972. After being called up for military service in the summer of ’73, Pound left his kibbutz in the Galilee to train in the Totchanim, the Israel Defense Force’s (IDF’s) venerable artillery division. On Erev Yom Kippurof that year, Pound’s unit, comprised entirely of recent emergency draftees in Training Base 9 Battalion, was rushed to the Golan Heights to oppose imminent Syrian insurgency.
Pound was deployed in the Golan about 40 kilometers from his kibbutz home.
“I had done six weeks tironut, recruit training in the IDF with a group of other olim from Russia, the States, England, Morocco and Ethiopia,” Pound told KNI. “After recruit training we went to Tzrifin, near Tel Aviv, for four weeks mizkoah, artillery training. At the end, as if it were timed, we were hastily cobbled together with other courses into an artillery unit. When we arrived in the Golan we had about 60 artillery pieces and 170 tanks facing a far superior Syrian Force.”
Note: According to Abraham Rabinovich, The Yom Kippur War, “Opposite the 177 tanks Israel had on the heights Yom Kippur morning, Syria had 1,400. Opposite Syria’s 115 artillery batteries, Israel had 11. Opposite 200 Israeli infantrymen manning 10 strongpoints along the 40-mile-long front were three Syrian infantry divisions with 40,000 men.”]
“We were totally alone,” Pound said. “It took the miluim, reserves, 4 days to arrive. We worked day and night without sleep and with not a lot of food firing three rounds a minute, shells weighing over 40 kilos… Our battalion comprised three batteries of four guns. Each gun crew had eight men so the total was 96. Tel Fares battery lost 20 killed or prisoner. Ein Zivan lost eight by a direct hit on one gun. Our battery lost none. We were under the same bombardment. Shells fell in front of us, behind us and at the side, but no direct hits.”
Ultimately, Pound’s battalion lost over a quarter of its soldiers.
“I ought to have been killed a few times,” Pound said. “But God must have been protecting me… It was us who stopped the Syrian advance. If it hadn’t have been for us the Syrians would have been in Haifa. Yet, on my return to my kibbutz, I was denied membership on the grounds of believing that Jesus was the Messiah.”
If it hadn’t have been for us the Syrians would have been in Haifa yet, on my return to my kibbutz, I was denied membership on the grounds of believing that Jesus was the Messiah.
After Pound had fought alongside his Jewish brothers defending the Golan, members of his kibbutz explained to him that, if he joined them, he would certainly marry and have children. His children would then influence their children.
“They did not want that,” Pound recalled.
“It almost seemed as if my Galilee kibbutz would have preferred to have been massacred at the hands of the Syrian Army than have their children grow up to believe in Jesus. Two Kibbutz brothers, aged 14 and 12 at the time, had also recently accepted the Lord and there was pandemonium as a result. The kibbutz held an assefa clalit, general meeting, that lasted until midnight to discuss what to do with ‘the missionaries.’”
“The lads were eventually dissuaded by their parents, but I was convinced I had found the truth. The kibbutz refused to accept me in membership, even after I had come back from the Army, unless I recanted my faith.”
Ironically, Pound did not arrive in Israel as a believer in Yeshua.
“I found Yeshua while living on my kibbutz in 1972. There were some Christians from the U.S. there in ulpan, studying Hebrew. I had a head start over them since I knew how to read synagogue prayers so I helped them. We discussed the Bible. I said that I believed the return of Jews to Israel was prophesied in the Old Testament.”
They asked, ‘What about Jesus in the Old testament?’”
“No,” I replied. “Jesus is in the New Testament. But months of study and discussion led me to ask God directly, in prayer, if Jesus was the Messiah. Through a series of events He answered me and I was baptized in the Kinneret.”
Pound stayed in Israel a little longer after the war working as a gardener and tending orchards in a Moshav just miles from his original home.
“But it wasn’t a permanent solution,” Pound said.
After having been denied membership in the kibbutz he had risked his life to help defend, Pound returned to England over 40 years ago. But he is not bitter about his experience nor does he regret having made Aliyah.
“I still have a strong affection for the country. I met the Lord in Israel and it changed the purpose of my life.”
Pound believed himself to be “the eternal bachelor” but, after leaving Israel in 1975, he returned in 1997 to marry Tessa, whom he met at home in England, in a ceremony performed, rather fittingly, in Jerusalem’s Independence Park.
Would he consider returning to Israel? “It would depend upon a lot of things,” Pound said, “but it’s a possibility.”
When asked what he might tell a believing Jew who is considering making Aliyah, Pound answered, simply, “Go for it. Israel needs you.”
(This article appeared online at kehilanews.com in substantially the same form and is reproduced here with permission.)