(photo credit: IDF Spokesman)
He is one of two soldiers in the country to have fought in all of Israel's wars, and on Tuesday the IDF paid its respects to 77-year-old Lt.-Col. (res.) Ze'ev Ram by awarding him with the Second Lebanon War military ribbon. The ribbon was pinned on to his uniform by OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Shamni in a ceremony that took place at the command headquarters.
Ram's life story reads like a history of the country, which he came to at the age of 17, a few months before the declaration of independence in 1948. He had survived the Holocaust, the duration of which he spent in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen.
After arriving in Israel, Ram enlisted in the newly-founded IDF and its first infantry brigade - Golani. Referring to the recent drop in motivation to serve in the IDF, Ram gave away a little secret.
"Also in my days there were people who dodged the draft," said Ram, who has lived for the past 60 years in Kibbutz Afikim in the Jordan Valley, where he still works as a farmer. "Overall however most of us understood that we were building a new country. We understood that the future of the Jewish people was on the line and that there was no alternative but to fight."
When the War of Attrition broke out, Ram found himself touring England, where he read in a newspaper that then-defense minister Moshe Dayan was asking reservists to come down to the Suez Canal to help. He immediately returned home and did just that.
In the summer of 2006, after almost 60 years in Israel and participation in six wars, Ram was again called up for reserve duty together with the seamline reserve unit whose members volunteer for service and assist soldiers at roadblocks and on patrols in the West Bank.
Ram says that today's soldiers are just as good as those he fought alongside in the War of Independence and are even better educated.
"We have great soldiers today," he said. "In 1948 a battalion commander needed to know how to use only three weapons. Today soldiers need to know how to use a dozen different weapons, computers and other technological systems."
When will he stop doing reserve duty?
"Never," Ram says. "Unless my legs stop working or they kick me out." â€¢
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