Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June 1982 War: First Hand Account: Why Israel Went Into Lebanon

Nadene Goldfoot
I, an American teacher from Oregon,  was  living in Safed, Israel  in the northern Galilee at the start of the Lebanon invasion.  My husband and I, with our German shepherd,  had moved to Safed after completing our education in the Ulpan in Haifa in 1980-1981, and then moved to Safed in August where I taught English in the junior high.

During Spring break one of the other students in my Ulpan class had visited Kiriat Shimona, which was north of Safed near the Lebanon border by the Good Neighbor Fence, and wound up the whole duration living in a bomb shelter along with others.  They were receiving so many attacks that they couldn't be out in the open.  On the way to Safed, we passed an apartment building where a rocket had fallen in its back yard just 2 weeks before.  That's when I started to get a little worried.

The PLO had made life in northern Israel intolerable by repeated shelling of Israeli towns a little closer than my city of Safed.  What I hadn't realized was that 15,000-18,000 PLO terrorists were camped out in many places in Lebanon.  5,000 to 6,000 were foreign mercenaries coming in from Libya, Iraq, India, Sri Lanka, Chad and Mozambique.  Our IDF had found enough light arms and other weapons to equip 5 brigades.  Their arsenal included mortars, Katyusha rockets and extensive anti-aircraft weapons.  They had brought in hundreds of T-34 tanks into the area.

Syria had permitted Lebanon to be a haven for the PLO and other terror groups.  They had brought surface-to-air missiles into Lebanon which created another danger for Israel.  Israel was being protected in part by Major Hadad of the Christian Militia whose soldiers patrolled the border.  He was a good friend.

Israel had struck and had commando raids but couldn't stop the growth of the PLO army and could not sit around and wait for more deadly attacks against defenseless citizens.  They had to act against the terrorists.

On June 15, 1982 I was on a bus going down to Haifa to the Rambam Hospital to check on my elbow.  I had fallen and crushed it and had broken the bone as well and it needed  to have the 7 screws taken out.  I noticed a lot of tanks going up the hill which I had never seen happen before, but couldn't get answers from the people on the bus due to my lack of speaking Hebrew well.   I got to the hospital and it was almost deserted which was very peculiar.  This place was usually as popular as a department store sale day. I found the doctor's office and saw all 3 doctors, one of which was from Michigan and looked just like Paul Newman,  who had done the operation.  They  told me they could not help me right now.  We were about to be in a war with Lebanon and they, being an army hospital, would be very busy setting a lot more bones.  I should go home immediately.  Maybe they could do the operation next summer.

I taught with Ned, an American teacher,  who lived in Carmiel, a more modern city nearby.  He was called up to serve in the army a week before at one o'clock in the morning and called me to tell me that he was home for the night and was okay.  Andy, the other English teacher was also home and okay.  Even our dog's vet was called up and was serving as a medic in the army in his period of milueem service.  With these other English teachers in the army, I wound up handling all the classes along with Margolite, the Russian "English" teacher with a very thick accent.  I had reported in at the school on my day off knowing that they would be needing me.  No one had to phone.  Anyway, I lived just across the street from the school.

Avram, who lived in Hatzor, had a birthday and while we were driving there we saw lots of IDF hitchhiking to get to their posts.  Everyone gave them lifts.  It was the patriotic thing to do.  Otherwise, I was at home baking cakes for soldiers who would grab a bite to eat with coffee at kiosks set up along the way.

At this point we had 170 men killed already.  Students in school were hysterical as they all had family members in the army.  Some of my 8th graders were used in the hospital to translate or just to help out, as we had the enemy in there as well and not all nurses or doctors could speak Arabic.  One of my students told me that they saw a lot of things that a 14 or 15 year old boy shouldn't have to see in the ward.  It was quite traumatic for him.

All we knew was that the PLO was finally run out and that it was time something had been done about it.  The UN had done nothing to help Israel while the North had lived in bomb shelters.  Everyone was very upset about the casualties on both sides, but even Lebanon was happy, especially Major Hadad, of the Christian Militia whose men had attacked the PLO.  Little did we know at the time just how they had done  which wasn't kosher.  I was glued to the radio for the short English reports we could hear and read every word in the Jerusalem Post, our English newspaper.  It finally came out that Sharon had allowed Hadad's men to take care of the PLO's, and they did so, as quietly as possible, most likely with knives in their tents.  Sharon received all the blame, being the General.

During the whole episode, the elevator in our building had broken down, and a soldier on leave blew our TV reception accidentally by cutting into a live wire, so we have problems just getting along.  It could have been much worse if our soldiers and Hadad's soldiers hadn't stopped the PLO, I now realize.

Resource: Myths and Facts, a concise record of the Arab-Israeli conflict by Mitchell G bard and Joel Himelfarb
Letters From Israel by Nadene Goldfoot

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