The Men I Never Met

Emek HaBacha

Emek HaBacha (Valley of Tears) Memorial – From Wikimedia Commons

It had started at Tel Saki on Yom Kippur, 6 October 1973 when six soldiers embarked on a routine reconnaissance mission to the outpost. For thirty-one year old Benjamin Wolff, now standing at the Valley of Tears memorial, it ended with the death of his uncle.

The Former U.S. Marine put his hand on a Syrian T62 tank. It also ended for Benjamin in Damascus on 13 March 1986 as a thirty-one year old reporter for the Associated Press was killed in a terrorist car bombing along with 59 other civilians.

His uncle had made Aliyah right after his nineteenth birthday and proudly joined the IDF. Dad stayed in the States pursuing a journalism career. Ben hadn’t known either of them, but they bound his soul here. He’d go back home to Idaho, to his wife and three children. By next fall, they’d be living in Haifa. They were Jews and this was their home.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to take a Google Maps image and location and use it to inspire the crafting of a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Tel Saki which, depending on the source consulted, is in Syria or Israel.

Interestingly enough, Wikipedia has almost nothing on the location. This is in spite of the fact that a significant battle in the 1973 Yom Kippur War occurred there when a coalition of Arab nations including Syria launched a sneak attack on Israel on the holiest day on the Jewish religious calendar.

However other sources had tons of information such as The Friendship and Heritage Foundation and the Legal Insurrection blog. Since the Valley of Tears or Emek Habacha is in the same area and a decisive battle in that war was fought there, in my research I included an article from The Times of Israel and this time Wikipedia had a lot more to say.

For my research I discovered that there were terrorist car bombings in Damascus in 1986 including one conducted by Pro-Iraqi militants on March 10th which killed 60 people.

One of my sons (he’s a twin) is thirty-one and a U.S. Marine veteran and although I don’t anticipate that he or any of his siblings will make Aliyah to Israel (my wife is Jewish which means my children are too), he’s probably the one who would most likely go.

I created a sense of loss due to war for him which also connected him to Israel and the middle east in a unique way. Some might retreat from that heritage because of the violence, but others would and have fiercely embraced and defended the Jewish homeland.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to


19 thoughts on “The Men I Never Met

    • It looks a bit different when you’re actually here. It’s also a lot less desolate when people who care about the land make the needed efforts to cultivate and develop it. When Mark Twain passed through the land of Israel a century and a half ago, recording his observations in “Innocents Abroad”, he found it desolate, virtually uninhabited, and apparently uninhabitable. But a bunch of visionary Jews got together and purchased unwanted tracts of land there; and with a lot of hard work and loss of life due to continual attacks from Muslim invaders, they made the desert blossom and created a vibrant, modern, technologically-superior nation in that previously-desolate territory. I’m not sure whether desolation or development is more likely to inspire the centuries of warfare to which you refer — but within the past century it has been Muslim intolerance of Jewish development that seems to have inspired it. Now, your observation might be applied equally well to the farmland now stretching across the area. Do Jewish-owned farms really provoke violence? Ya gotta’ wonder about that.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’ve studied the Yom Kippur War quite a lot. Israelis faced an existential crisis. Many (I’m talking about the civilians) weren’t sure if any Israeli would survive it. I guess when your back is to the wall, you fight like a lion. A lot of people have traveled to Israel to stay like this family. I’ve read the stories This story sounds very familiar.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You’re welcome. Yom Kippur is the holiest day on the Jewish religious calendar which means, especially in Israel, just about everything stops except emergency services. The Arab coalition was probably counting on that when they massed their sneak attack and thought it would be an easy win. Didn’t work out that way.


  2. Hi James – well done with all the rich history and then the personal author notes.
    Fav line:
    they bound his soul here

    and how interesting you have twins that are 31 – now I see where some of the seasoning comes from – 🙂


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