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IDF Negev Beasts -  Operation Yoav - Capture of Beersheba

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Operation Yoav opened the way to the Negev (southern Israel) which had been blocked by the invading Egyptian army. This is the story of the capture of Beersheba in Operation Yoav, a first person account by David Teperson of the Palmach "Negev Beasts." 


The story of my Jeep Company in the capture of Beersheba

We started at night and arrived at Kibbutz Hatzerim that same night before attacking. One of our jeeps, traveling without lights, landed on an Egyptian mine. Three of our soldiers were wounded. Two were overseas volunteers (Machal). One was my Belgian friend, Eskimo. Here is his story of the incident:

 “My driver was Ifrah Lezerovitch, and the front gunner was Amos Galoy. They were hit worse then I was. Amos spent 5 months in hospital, and was in pretty bad shape when I saw him. Ifrah spent 3 months in hospital. Neither one ever went back to our unit. Amos told me that on the eve of the Beersheba operation on October 19th, 1948, we were sent on a mission to retrieve one of our men who operated in Beersheba, and bring him back. We left from Hatzerim, I was told, and hit 2 anti-tank mines. I don't remember any of it. Migdal told me that he came and picked us up. Next thing I know, I woke up in a hospital in Tel Aviv. I stayed there for about a month, and was on rehab for 2 more. I came down one time to visit the Jeep Company in Beersheba. I think that they had my jeep at the entrance of town, as a reminder of why one should stay away from mines!”

Kibbutz Hatzerim was fortified with trenches a couple of kilometers to the west of Beersheba. My friend Eskimo who fought in the Belgian paratroopers with the Allied forces in WWII landed on his head, suffered concussion and I don’t know what else.  He was taken by ambulance to the hospital where he stayed for quite some time. The rest of the company with one of the South African volunteers, Reuben, (his ex-wife was a nurse there) went to Kibbutz Hatzerim, where we rested.

On the morning we attacked Beersheba and our jeep company swung around the south side of Beersheba, cutting off the retreating Egyptian army. One platoon captured four hidden artillery pieces in the field nearby – 25 inch artillery guns. Many civilians were running away, cursing King Farouk, and telling us how wonderful we were! We entered Beersheba from the south side. The French Commando and some of the 7th battalion had already captured the police station and the city of Beersheba, capturing some Egyptian prisoners of war. I took a 38 Enfield revolver from one of the Egyptians that became my back-up which I always kept strapped to my waist. I soon realized that if we landed on a mine and I was thrown out, or if my vehicle was ablaze, there wouldn’t be enough time to take my rifle with me. In all the wars since, I’ve always carried a revolver strapped to me as a back-up. In two of the wars the revolver helped me when my Uzi jammed. I taught both my sons to always keep revolvers as back-up, which they did in both the Yom-Kippur and the 1st Lebanon Wars.

 After the capture of Beersheba there were rumors that the Egyptians might counter-attack. The jeep company was sent south to Bir Asluj to scout out the area and to see if the Egyptians were moving. One of the infantry battalions took up their post at Bir Asluj. We went back to Beersheba which became our main base of operation and our home, from the 20th October till January 1949.

 
Ronny Cheskelson, South African Machal, capture of Beersheba

 

Eitan Yacobson, Israel, firing a captured 0.5 anti-tank rifle and Aryeh Englbrech, English Machal, after the capture of Beersheba

Each jeep platoon was given an Arab house with a couple of rooms where we ate and slept. There were always one or two platoons on various missions.  Normally when we went on these missions, we went with 4 jeeps.  Sometimes these 4 jeeps were accompanied by an intelligence group.   We’d sleep out for three to five days before returning to our base in Beersheba. When we settled down, I took one day off from patrol and built a shower with a fuel oil dripper to heat water for the platoon. As I had learned plumbing at the agricultural school this was no problem for me. I always say this was the first shower built in Beersheba with hot water. I was also the chief slaughterer (shohet). If we’d got hold of a goat I would slaughter it, cut the meat up and make dried meat (biltong). This was also part of my education in Africa.

In the beginning, I was a jeep driver and treated my jeep like my horse, cleaning it, fixing it, keeping it in top shape. We all looked upon our jeeps as a knight in the early days would look upon his horse. I didn’t like anyone else to drive my jeep. One day, my corporal Yehuda wanted to go and visit someone at a Kibbutz (I think), and took the jeep without me knowing. He managed to turn it over on the main road towards Gaza. I was mad like hell at him, and it took some time to get my loveable jeep back in order. Afterwards, the drivers would change around, and sometimes I would be a back-gunner or a jeep driver. There was another case when I was sitting as a back-gunner and my friend Eitan was driving. Yehuda, my corporal, had got off to direct him, and Eitan overturned the jeep by sliding off the road, on its side. I was at the back, and all the ammunition landed on me. They picked me up and I was alright. We loved our jeeps and treated them well.

After the capture of Beersheba, with a captured anti-tank gun (6-pounder), entering Beersheba from the south

....


"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.


Copyright

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

Negev Beasts Insignia - IDF/Palmach 1948

Negev Beasts - Main Page


See also:Palestine Partition - November 29, 1947 Memoirs of a Palmach volunteer, 1948 , Was there Ethnic Cleansing in Palestine in 1948?
Israel - Birth of a Nation - The struggle for Israel's independence 
1948 Israel War of Independence (First Arab-Israeli war) Timeline (Chronology) MACHAL In Israel's Wars MACHAL in Israel's War of Independence MACHAL - in illegal immigration to Palestine and Israel War of Independence

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