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9 May, 2007 21:49

Miles apart, common victory

Miles apart, common victory

In 1942, 4,000 people from the Jewish settlement of Palestine were fighting against Nazi forces in northern Egypt. Today, veterans in Israel meet comrades and friends, some of whom battled fascism on other continents.

In the middle of the Negev desert, in a small town called Beersheva, Asher Dishon puts on his uniform from those days. He’s going to City Hall to meet his good friend Boris Feldman. 65 years ago the two were still on the same side, miles apart, both fighting very critical battles against the Nazi army. For Asher the desert is nothing new. It’s where he spent the Second World War, in the stifling heat of Egypt’s El Alamein. While his friend Boris was fighting for his life in the freezing cold of Stalingrad.

It was the winter of 1942. There was chaos on the Russian front as the Red Army fought a tooth and nail to hold on to Stalingrad. They knew if they lost this battle, it would mean disaster and German occupation would become irresistable.

“We got the tanks, they're called Red October, just out of the factory. And with them we made an offense on the north front of the city. The Germans tried to cut supplies to the city near the Volga river,” recalls Boris Feldman, Red Army veteran.

At almost the same time, in the Middle East, 4,000 young people from the Jewish settlement of Palestine left their homes to join the British army to fight against the German dictator with the same determination. They too knew if they did not stop the Nazis in northern Egypt, it would be the end of the Jewish settlement in Palestine.

“I was very young. I knew I had a family in Europe, so the best way to fight the Nazis was to join the British Army,” explains Asher Dishon, British Army veteran.

For many years Asher did not have too many people to celebrate this moment of history with. But all that changed after the Russian immigrants came to Israel. 3,000 veterans from World War II live in Beersheva. They have their own organisation with rules and regulations. They all fought in the Russian army but they accept Asher from the British forces.

There may be disagreement between these people over what battle was more decisive. But as long as they are alive, they are a living piece of history. A reminder to the younger generation of what went before and why they are around today.