Former POW marks 35 years since his Hanukka miracle - returning home

"Returning home after being imprisoned in Lebanon was my own personal Hanukka miracle," Primor says.

Yisrael Primor 248.88 (photo credit: IDF )
Yisrael Primor 248.88
(photo credit: IDF )
Hanukka this year held special meaning for IAF Col. (res.) Yisrael Primor - the holiday marked 35 years since his return to Israeli soil after being held as a prisoner of war in Lebanon. Primor said that he experienced many small miracles throughout his captivity, which followed a flight gone awry during the Yom Kippur War. "Returning home after being imprisoned in Lebanon was my own personal Hanukka miracle," Primor said. Primor said his plane was shot down near Al-Hiyam in Lebanon on October 11, 1973. "Falling out of the plane, my left hand was hurt and both arms were injured, so I couldn't contact anyone," Primor recalled. "A very strong wind drew me eastward, and I was extremely frightened. I was stopped when I crashed into a rock and almost lost consciousness." The next thing Primor remembers is a group of locals approaching him and his copilot, who had also lost consciousness in the fall. Since he spoke no Arabic and his hands were incapacitated, Primor depended on facial expressions. "I could tell that the people who found me weren't interested in killing me, which was a relief," Primor said. Both badly injured, the two were brought to a hospital, where Lebanese nurses lied to Syrians who were looking for the Israelis, telling them the prisoners had already been transported to Beirut. Later, the two were in fact moved to Beirut, where they spent three weeks in a military hospital. Primor and his copilot were hospitalized in separate rooms, but could see each other and spoke to one another by reading lips. "When they found out about the lip-reading, we were separated," said Primor. "Also, I could eat only vegetables because nothing was kosher." After the two recovered, they were sent to a military camp and housed in separate rooms. Primor and his copilot communicated by writing notes and leaving them in the toilet. "This went on for about two weeks, until our Lebanese guards finally figured out why Jews had to go to the bathroom so often," Primor said. He remembers that it was extremely cold in his room, and that he would write all sorts of prayers in a notebook. "One Friday night, I did Kabbalat Shabbat prayers in my room and I started to cry," he said. "But suddenly I could hear my colleague doing Kabbalat Shabbat in his room, and that gave me hope." After six weeks, the two were placed in the same room. They had no idea what was going on with the war in Israel. Finally, during Hanukka, on December 13, 1973, they were put in an ambulance and driven along the coastal road to Rosh Hanikra in northern Israel. "That was the scariest ride of my life. We were sure that terrorists would attack us on the road," Primor said. The drive ended without incident, however, and he returned to Tel Aviv in time to celebrate the festival of lights. A happy reunion followed between Primor and his wife. The couple went on to have six children and continue the family tradition of serving in the IAF. Their oldest son is currently a pilot; their daughter serves in the IAF and one of their sons-in-law is in air force intelligence.