This excerpt from the Book "Eyes of the Beholder" by David Teperson, tells of the part of the Negev
beast commando in operation Uvda, the
Israeli capture of Eilat - Um Rash-Rash - in March of 1949, during the
Israel War of
Independence. This was the final
operation of the war. For general background on Operation Uvda, see
Operation Uvda. It was also known as operation 'Ayin.
The broken arrows on the left show the Negev Brigade going to Um-Rashrash,
led by the Jeep Company, with scouts. The arrows on the right show the Golani Brigade. We prepared a landing strip
(called Sdeh Avraham) for the Air Force Dakotas to land and bring in the infantry 7th Palmach Battalion.
On the 7th of January we moved back to Beersheba for a rest after a long period of action. We fixed and
cleaned our vehicles, did our washing, had hot showers and caught up on our missing hours of sleep. After a while, we
were sent out on patrols and sometimes escorts. In Beersheba, a South African overseas volunteer called Basil Herman was
appointed as the temporary town mayor. He supplied us English speaking boys with the Jerusalem Post (newspaper in
English) and some news from South Africa.
end of January and the beginning of February, we moved from Beersheba to Tel Nof, a big ex-British base in the airport
(today, between Rehovot and Gedera). The Air Force was in charge of the whole airport, and we were given the huts where
the British soldiers used to live. We got new uniforms, new equipment and now started our patrols into the West Bank
area of Beit Gubrin, opposite the Bethlehem-Hebron and Gush Etzyon areas. We patrolled and checked the trans-Jordanian
army which was part of the British army, and whose officers were British. Gush Etzyon was a collection of about 3-4
Kibbutzim that had fallen to the Jordanian army, just before the state was declared. The Kibbutz founders were taken
prisoners of war, some were killed. Among them were South African volunteers. Thirty-five Israeli Palmach boys were
ambushed and killed on their way from Jerusalem to reinforce the Kibbutz defenders, just before the State of Israel was
declared. Among them were American Machal volunteers.
patrolled this area, checking the Jordanian positions and trying to get as much intelligence information about the area
as we could. The Egyptians opened fire with everything they had whenever we showed up next to their positions, thus
giving us information of their fire power. The Jordanians, with their British officers, would shoot one or two warning
shots at us or over our heads, but never displayed what weapons they had. These patrols continued until March.
prepared our Jeep Company to move south and find the road through the middle of the Negev to capture Um-Rashrash (today
the city of Eilat), which was still held by the Jordanian army. Although there was still a ceasefire, we patrolled the
area and checked to find the right tracks to get to Um-Rashrash, as well as to see where the Jordanian army was.
scouting the area and looking for the best roads down, we started preparing the Negev Brigade for the big push to occupy
Um-Rashrash. The Jeep Company and the scouts prepared the intelligence reports. The general idea was that the Negev
Brigade would go through the middle of the Negev desert to look for a landing space for the airplanes to bring in the 7th
Infantry Battalion of the Negev Brigade. The Mobile 9th Battalion all went down in small convoys following
the jeeps, which led the way. At the same time, the Golani 19th Mobile Battalion came down through Ma’aleh
Akrabim and continued through the Arava Valley, running parallel to the Jordanian border and all the way down to Um
Rashrash. This action of the two battalions started on the 6th of March 1949, and continued till the 10th
We left Tel
Nof on the night of the 5th of March and started traveling towards Beersheba. We traveled about 20 kilometers
south of Beersheba and made camp. At daybreak we continued moving south, more or less on the same route that our jeeps
and the scouts had prepared for us a month earlier. We were operating together with headquarters. Our Jeep Company was
broken up into groups, and mine was one of the groups leading the convoy to a flat area called Sdeh Avraham. We had to
clean stones away from this area in order to make a landing strip for the C-47 Dakota aircrafts to land and bring in the
7th Palmach Infantry Battalion. Then we had to find a way to get to Um-Rashrash (Eilat) from the top of the mountains
where we were. The Infantry could go down, but the vehicles had to find tracks to get there.
Company crossed the Palestine-Egypt border into the Egyptian side, swinging around to an Egyptian border post called
Taba. The Egyptians had a small police station there.
We then got
on to a dirt track road that the British Army, traveling form the Suez Canal area, had used to go through Um-Rashrash
and to their bases in Akaba and Amman in Trans-Jordan.
On the track down to Um-Rashrash (Eilat): jeeps being repaired, refueled,
and helping vehicles stuck in the sand.
Eytan Jacobson of the
Jeep Company checking Bedouins on the way down to Um-Rashrash (Eilat).
Jeep on the way down to Um-Rashrash (Eilat). Note the sleeping bags and
kitbags on the jeep.
The Palmach 7th Battalion after arriving on C-47 Dakotas and
C-45 Commandos at the Sdeh Avraham runway. We brought the Command-cars seen in the picture to follow our jeeps down from
Beersheba so that the infantry would
C-45 Commando and Piper-Cub on the runway.
After the capture of Eilat, Sdeh Avraham became the airfield for supplies
and manpower for Eilat. There were tents on this temporary airfield. They also brought in small Piper-Cubs which could
be used for gathering intelligence from the air and also for quick evacuation of wounded soldiers, as they could land
On the way down to Um-Rashrash (Eilat), convoy of jeeps escorting
Command-cars meant for the 7th Battalion Infantry soldiers at the runway.
Egyptian police station at Taba with visiting Israeli army jeeps.
Right: The famous palm trees on the Taba
beach, next to the police station.
Migdal Teperson on guard duty in the hills above Eilat, on the British
convoy road, at the Egyptian border..
Migdal Teperson and Benny
Miller on the jeep, with one wheel in the Red Sea. The water was too cold for swimming.
Jeeps arriving in front of the buildings at Um-Rashrash. Phillip Navon
(SA) standing next to my jeep at the front.
Jeep Company in Eilat,
after the capture of the city. About 70% of the soldiers in this picture are Machalnikim (overseas volunteers).
Migdal Teperson (SA), left, and Benny Miller (SA).
The signs which you can see in the pictures were
British army convoy signs. They had distances in miles, on the dirt track road from Egypt through Um-Rashrash, to Akaba
and Amman. The Israeli Army, by occupying Um-Rashrash (Eilat), had cut the only connection the Jordanian army had.
taking Um-Rashrash, we cut off the connecting road between Trans-Jordan and Egypt that the British had used. That is why
they were so mad at us. Our Brigade headquarters stopped at the Egyptian police station, and the jeeps continued on to
Um-Rashrash and found out that the Jordanian army had retreated back to Akaba in Jordan. Before we took Um-Rashrash,
part of our infantry went down from the mountains to the Arava valley on the Jordan border, about 20 kilometers north of
Um-Rashrash. They put up a defense position with barbed wire across the road and signs indicating there were mines
there. The idea was that if any Jordanians came down the road, they would see our position and the “minefield” and this
would deter them from continuing to Um-Rashrash. After this, our troops left, but the Jordanians didn’t know that.
Palmachnikim: From left – Nahum Sarig, Negev Brigade Commander, General
Yigal Alon, Commander of the Southern front, Yohanan Zariz, 7th Battalion Commander.
When we reached Um-Rashrash, the Brigade Commander, together with all the Battalion
Commanders who had joined the advance group, decided to hoist a flag. As we didn’t have one with us, one of the girls
took a sheet from the ambulance and with ink made an Israeli flag which later became the famous “ink flag”. [Avraham
(Bren) Adan, later General Adan, is seen hoisting the flag in this famous photo.]
brought down a proper flag and made a guard of honor. Um-Rashrash had three mud buildings and a beautiful beach. Our
Jeep Company took refuge in one of the small wadis coming down from the mountains. The idea was not to be seen from
Akaba in Jordan. A couple of hours after the Negev
Brigade captured Um-Rashrash, the 19th Mobile Battalion of the Golani Brigade arrived. They were held up on
the road on two incidents: One of their vehicles landed on a mine, and then they came across the artificial barrier that
we had put up to deter the Jordanians. They would have reached Eilat shortly after us if not for these two incidents.
There is still an argument going on about who reached Eilat first!
- The police station and buildings
at Um-Rashrash. Bottom: Picture of Um-Rashrash building complex, taken from the hill behind the city.
As soon as it
got dark, we took all of our company’s vehicles and some others, and traveled without lights on the dirt road leading
north from Eilat, to about 20-30 north of it. Then we turned around, facing south, put all the lights on and traveled
back to Eilat. We did this twice to three times a night for the first couple of days. Afterwards, we heard on the radio
that the Israelis had brought huge amounts of reinforcements into the Um-Rashrash occupied area. Our trick seemed to
have had the right effect on the British, and the Jordanian Army was scared to counter-attack. The Israeli Army brought
down engineers with scrapers and tractors to improve the dirt road going north from Eilat to Ein Hussub and then on to
Ma’akeh Akrabim and Beersheba. This now became the main road to Um-Rashrash. As protection, some of our jeeps escorted
the engineers doing the road work.
"Negev Beasts" (Hayot Hanegev) was the original and informal name of the 9th battalion Jeep company
motorized commando of the Palmach Negev Brigade (Hativat Hanegev), a unique military force that played a key role in liberating the Negev in the
Israel War of Independencee.
Eyes of the Beholder relates some of the exploits of this little jeep unit, composed of Machal (overseas) volunteers from all
over the world, as well as young Israeli Palmachniks like Avraham Adan (Bren), later General Bren, Mordechai (Motta) Gur
and Haim Bar Lev. These are the men who conquered Beersheva and who raised the famous ink flag in Eilat. The book
includes priceless photos and maps. It is a valuable first person account of what really happened, as well as a memorial
to the Machal volunteers and Israeli soldiers who fought to defend Israel in 1948.
Colonel David (Migdal) Teperson, author of Eyes of the Beholder, grew up in the South African veldt, lived in
the Kalahari desert, and learned the ways of the wild from age 13. His learned survival skills were aided by his 6' 6"
frame and restless iron-clad constitution. He volunteered to defend the new state of Israel, serving first in the
Alexandroni Brigade and later in the Negev Beasts in 1948, and fighting in every war of Israel. These excerpts from the book are presented to honor the Machal
volunteers and others who served in the Israel war of Independence and to give a close-up look at the history of that
war and at the young men and women who made the state of Israel possible. The patch at right is the symbol of the
Motorized Commando Unit.
Eyes of the Beholder is
copyright © by David Teperson, 2008. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted
in any form or by any means, without permission. Material appearing in these Web pages is reproduced by permission. To
obtain printed copies of the entire book, contact Colonel David Teperson, P.O. BOX 9590, KFAR SHMARYAHU ISRAEL. 46910
TEL: 972-9-9582718 FAX: 972-9-9560673 E-MAIL: DAVE_TEP(at)NETVISION.NET.IL
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