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Special to JTA “why Am I Here?”–the Personal Testament of Rafi Unger, Killed in Action

First there were rumors and then came the news. Rafi Unger, 26, the promising Israel Radio commentator, was among those killed in a troop carrier in the Sinai’s southern front while covering the events for Kol Israel. And then came his kit, which was found rusty and stained, in the kit were a number of tape recorder cassettes. Some had not been used. Some had a vivid description of a cruel war. One of the tapes was private. A slip of paper said: “Not for publication. Kindly keep it for me till after the war, till I return.” Raft Unger did not return. Kol Israel, the broadcasting service, sent the private personal tape to Unger’s parents. They listened to it. It was a man talking with himself, with his soul. The parents gave it to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency for publication so that the Jewish public and Jewish youth might learn the answer to the question “Why am I here? Why does a Jewish youth find himself in the midst of a war?” What follows is Rafi Unger’s statement.

“We are on the move southwards. I have some time to do some thinking. I found myself between two soldiers in an armored troop carrier and within a short time I learned–though I am not surprised–after all, it’s a war–that these troop carriers are vulnerable to any kind of firearms, except small arms. I am thinking, even now, as I am talking into the microphone, and I am asking myself, why, for heaven’s sake, am I here? Actually I have no reply right away. While in Tel Aviv I told my colleagues: Look, there is one meshugener called Unger. He could stay behind in Tel Aviv –and yet he goes down to the front. He know that everything can happen to him–and yet he goes down. One of them, a war-experienced friend, snapped that I was a fool. Am I really a fool? – By God, I do not know.

“True, I am not a ‘lion.’ I never looked for bravery, for danger. And yet, when this moment came, when I was given the choice, I felt that my place is here, with the combat people. I know, I am sure that it would have irked me all my life, I would not be able to explain myself, if I would not be here now. It is difficult to explain why, when already in the south, I did not stay in the rear command post but ran after a moving armored troop carrier and when, in the first carrier in which the brigade commander was emplaced, there was no room for me, I hurried after the second vehicle and Jumped onto it as it was already in moving. Why? Was it curiosity, carelessness? Possibly, but not all. It was first and foremost the search for the feeling of experience. It is the inability to live in this country without experiencing what has become part and parcel of the life of people of this country, young and adults. I think that it is this that brought me onto this armored troop carrier-moving towards the unknown.

“I have no fears though there is a natural sense of worry. Actually I wanted everything to come to an end and return safely home. It sounds banal to say so. and I would have laughed at myself about such a phrase had it not been for the fact that I am on the front, at a place where the possibility of getting hit is real. Nevertheless, I feel that my place is here, whether I broadcast or not. I have to live this experience of the front, of the battle for life which entails life or death, to live it here, on the sands of Sinai. These are the true reasons. If I hide anything from myself, it is a thing which I am not even prepared to reveal to my heart. And therefore I feel no other reasons. The microphone was the pretext. To be here is an order of my heart, my logic, my senses. This is what I feel now, what I think now.”

And then Rafi Unger noticed a succah on a troop carrier. He reported that too. And then there was no more reporting from Rafi Unger. He was killed together with General Avraham Mendler in the troop carrier.

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