Tell Saki—Part I
Today we embark on a two-episode journey back to the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and specifically to one small hill—a dormant volcanic tell—in the southern Golan Heights. There, we follow a group of young IDF soldiers who, trapped in a small bunker for 36 intense hours, went to hell and back.
With most stories, there is no absolute beginning or end. Life’s narratives aren’t typically quite as tidy as that. But our story today is different: It takes place in a very specific time and place, and lasts exactly 36 hours. Over the past 18 months, senior producer Yochai Maital has spoken to dozens of soldiers, all of them survivors of a single battle of the Yom Kippur War. For many of the young men—now in their 60s and 70s—who participated in it, the battle’s impact was so profound that they refer to it as their second birth place.
The battle of Tell Saki was one of the most dramatic sagas in what was one of the most intense theaters of war in 1973. Throughout the Golan Heights, Israeli forces were vastly outnumbered during the first few days of the Yom Kippur War. Still, through tremendous acts of heroism and ingenuity, IDF soldiers managed to delay the Syrian troops. In so doing, they prevented a devastating invasion into the heart of Israel, and bought the heads of the army precious time to mount a counterattack. But, of course, this came at a horrible price. Many lost their lives in those first few days of war, and many of those who survived spent years—sometimes decades—piecing their lives back together.
But this is not your typical war story. It is a story about men who did not come home to a hero’s welcome, and whose bravery and sacrifice went largely unrecognized. And, above all it is a tale of friendship and camaraderie, which—as we shall see—might be the only cure for the emotional wounds of war.
Yochai Maital produced, scored, and sound-designed the episode. Mishy Harman edited it. Sela Waisblum created the mix. Thanks to the Friendship and Heritage Foundation, an NGO set up by the survivors of Tell Saki to commemorate their fallen friends. Thanks also to Aviram Barkai, Moshe Givati, Dan Carlin’s “Hardcore History,” Halli Lerman, Reuven Gal, Boaz Dekel, Suri Krieger, Sharon Rappaport, Dan Almagor, Abe Rabinovich, and Ya’akov Seh Lavan for his help in fact-checking this story. Seh Lavan leads tours of Tell Saki and runs an escape-room experience there. Much of the music in the episode is by Leat Sabbah, with additional music by Jorge Mejia, Doug Maxwell, and Yochai Maital. The end song, “Adaber Itcha,”(I Shall Talk to You) is sung by Chava Alberstein, with lyrics by Rachel Shapira and music by Alona Turel.
Listen to the episode here, or download it from Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or Spotify. You can hear all of Israel Story’s episodes in English here and in Hebrew here.
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