Friday, April 15, 2005
This seems a link well worth preserving! (Hat tip: LGF.)
A Russian immigrant turned Israeli policeman has won the Jewish state's second-highest military honor.As an IDF veteran, this speaks to me strongly. Israeli soldiers don't get many decorations; there are no Good Conduct medals or Expert Rifleman medals, nor Purple Hearts for being wounded in combat.
Known only by his initial, Y., the commander of the Border Police undercover unit called Yasam was awarded the Medal for Courage on Tuesday for a string of deadly counterterrorist missions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Yasam is the Hebrew acronym for Police Reconnaissance Unit.
"I just did my job as best I knew how," Y., a 30-year-old father of two, told Ma'ariv before the awards ceremony. "I wasn't expecting a decoration." Yasam usually seeks out recruits among Sephardi Jews who can pass for Palestinians and handle the rough world of covert operations.
It might seem an odd home for Y., the piano-playing son of Muscovite academics who immigrated to Israel when he was 16. But he now has two dozen confirmed "kills" of terrorist fugitives to his name.
In the Israeli military, one ribbon means one war... with very few exceptions. Check out this picture, for example, circa 2000 or so:
All three men are generals. Note how "undecorated" they look (at least by American standards).
The man in the center is then Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz (in American military symbols, a three-star general, as high as Israeli generals go; only one Israeli wears that rank at any given time). On his left is a Major General (two-star); on his right is a Brigadier General (one star). All three wear the colorful Operation Peace For Galilee campaign ribbon (1982) over the left breast pocket; Mofaz and the Brigadier also wear the Yom Kippur War ribbon (1973), and Mofaz wears the Six-Day-War ribbon (1967) as well.
NONE of them wear any of the three solid-colored special decorations; they are extremely rare, and usually granted posthumously. (See here for a look at the special decorations.) As the Jerusalem Post article points out, the solid-red Medal of Courage has not been awarded to anyone in 23 years. (More detailed statistics can be found here.)
The guy clearly knows what he's doing, too, and why he's doing it:
Y. described Yasam as his Zionist calling. "Even in the worst of times, we always knew Israel was the place for us," he said. "The same went for the military. Even back in Russia, we would hear about the Israeli military. For me, it was a personal challenge to serve in it."In other words, he earned his award by going deep into the terrorist nests that the Palestinian Authority foments, seeking out terrorist leaders, and killing them:
"The Holocaust is very deeply ingrained in me. With time, I understood how terrible it was, and understood that we, the Jews, must know how to protect ourselves without asking questions or permission."
Drafted into the Border Police, Y. performed so well that the commanders asked him to become an officer despite his faulty Hebrew. Then came the outbreak of Palestinian violence in 2000, and Y. found Arabic to be just as useful.
According to comrades, he is first to volunteer for the most dangerous missions in the grim alleyways of the refugee camps favored as hideouts by Palestinian gunmen. "There is something wrong with his fear instinct. It does not exist," one said.
Once inside Tulkarm, Y. and his comrade found their target. When he resisted arrest, they shot him dead, waking up all the other gunmen in the camp.
So Y. decided to use the commotion to their benefit, driving out at full speed and shouting "Army! Army!" in Arabic. The Palestinian locals, thinking the two undercover cops were gunmen on the run from Israeli special forces, made way, letting them escape.
Y. "was the only one who said the mission was possible," said Col. Tamir Heyman, a West Bank brigade commander. "And he made it so."
Such courage deserves to be recognized and remembered. I'm glad he's getting the recognition he deserves... even if we may have to wait many years before we learn his name.
NOTE: An earlier version of this post mistakenly referred to Y.'s medal as the yellow Medal of Valor, the IDF's highest decoration. Sorry for the error.
And if you're curious to know what such a man looks like, well, the Israeli press knows better than to publicize his face! But here's a snapshot from his awards ceremony, in which Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon (right) proudly pins the medal on Y.: