3 Yom Kippur War Heroes
Stories You Have Never Heard
Moshe Levi: The Commando
In 1973, Moshe Levi was 28-years-old, married and a father to a son and daughter. Two months before the war he was injured in a car accident and broke his kneecap. A month before the war, Levi’s unit was called up for reserve duty but his leg was still in a plaster. Two weeks before the war broke out, his plaster was removed. He was not called to join his battalion but he decided to do so anyway. The brigade commander put Levi in command of a half-track armored vehicle and that very night he drove out to the Sinai frontier.
On October 8, his company was deployed in the region of Al Qantarah El Sharqiyya, east of the Suez Canal, and ordered to track down Egyptian commandos. On October 15, while stationed in the Bluza outpost, they received a call to help free Israeli soldiers trapped by an Egyptian ambush of 20 soldiers. Levi’s company arrived to discover that the Egyptian force was much larger than the received reports led them to believe.
The Egyptians waited until the Israeli vehicles began to enter the area and then unleashed a barrage of rockets and missiles that they had buried under the sand. They rained fire on the Israelis, immobilizing the majority of the IDF’s armored vehicles. Levi’s half-track was hit by a rocket. He stuck his arms out of the vehicle and aimed his weapon towards the attackers, ready to return fire. An Egyptian anti-tank missile passed by and slashed open Levi’s right arm. With his arm bleeding heavily, Levi ordered his troops to follow him and exit the vehicle.
Levi understood that his force was outnumbered and outgunned but he was not willing to give up. While his arm continued to gush blood, he grabbed a grenade in his left hand and advanced fearlessly on the enemy position. As he approached he ripped out the grenade’s pin with his teeth and then at a distance of ten meters from the enemy he hurled the grenade, taking out their whole position.
Being so close to the target, Levi was hit by the grenade’s shrapnel in the face and chest. When medics arrived to treat his wounds, Levi waved them off and directed them to first look after his soldiers who had also suffered injuries.
Levi was awarded the Medal of Valor – the IDF’s highest honor – for his supreme courage, composure in the heat of battle, and risking his own life to save others and complete his mission.
Uriel Hefetz: The Volunteer
After hearing on the radio about the battles that had broken out on October 6, he raced out to his car and drove straight to the Syrian front. Hefetz spent the next three weeks of the war evacuating the wounded from the frontline and transferring them for medical care.
Among those who Hefetz saved from near certain death was Peretz Titkin. Hefetz pulled Titkin from his tank after it had been hit by Syrian fire. Titkin was in critical condition. Hefetz saved his life without telling him his name. It wasn’t until years later that he discovered the identity behind the man who had saved his life.
When he returned home from the war, Hefetz told no one about the many lives he had saved. His family only discovered the story of his heroic exploits after reading a card sent to him by one of the doctors who provided treatment to the many wounded soldiers who Hefetz had evacuated from the battle.
A year after the war, Hefetz was wounded after volunteering to assist in a rescue operation of school children held hostage by terrorists. He was left paralyzed by his injuries. In honor of his efforts in the Yom Kippur War and in the rescue operation, Hefetz was honored with a Medal of Distinguished Service, a Chief of Staff Citation and the Israel Defense Prize for 1973. Uriel Hefetz passed away in 1978 from his injuries.
Maxim Cohen: The Driver
Maxim Cohen was born in Morocco and made aliyah (moved to Israel) with his parents in 1948 at the age of two. He enlisted in the IDF and became a driver. Following the 1967 Six-Day War, Cohen left Israel with his parents to live in France.
On Yom Kippur, Cohen – a traditional, observant Jew – was in Synagogue with the Jews of his community. At 2 p.m. during the afternoon prayers, his wife arrived in a car (forbidden on the holiest day in the Jewish calendar) – Cohen knew something was wrong. He rushed outside and his wife told him that war had broken out in Israel. He returned inside to apologize to the congregation. He told them that there was a war on and he had to go.
Maxim rushed to the Israeli embassy in Paris where they were assisting soldiers to return to Israel to help fight. He was rushed through an APC (armored personnel carrier) driver’s course and was attached to an armored force fighting the Egyptians on the southern front. Cohen and his team crossed the Suez Canal and after three weeks of fighting, on October 24 – the last day of the war, arrived at the outskirts of the city of Suez.
The IDF had decided to attempt to conquer the city, a key strategic point on the canal. Preparations were rushed and the breaching forces received little forward intelligence. Cohen found himself a part of one of two armored columns rolling into the city.
Suddenly, on one of the streets that appeared empty, an inferno of concentrated fire was unleashed on the vehicles from inside the buildings that lined the street. The Israelis were trapped in a wall of fire. Bazooka rockets, anti-tank missiles, and thousands of grenades and bullets from automatic weapons rained down on the Israeli force which dispersed in every direction to escape the inferno. The battle continued for many hours – the Israeli soldiers took cover in the houses.
The commander of Cohen’s APC had been hit in the firefight, along with most of the vehicle’s soldiers. Cohen maintained composure under heavy fire and proceeded to evacuate the wounded Israeli soldiers while running over enemy troops with his vehicle. Without concern for his own safety, Cohen drove back into the city and the heart of the inferno again and again to save more wounded troops.
Pvt. Cohen was awarded the Medal of Courage for his resourcefulness, composure under fire, and putting his own life endanger to save the lives of his brothers in arms.